Local public agencies (LPAs)—mostly counties, cities and towns—own and operate the vast majority of the nation’s highway system. The nation’s local roads network comprises about 3 million miles, or nearly 75 percent, of the overall system, and more than half of the bridges. Local public agencies build and maintain the local roads network using a variety of funding sources, including the Federal-aid Highway Program. Every year LPAs administer about $7 billion in Federal-aid projects, which can range from short sidewalks and bike-pedestrian facilities to pavement overlays and bridges.
When an LPA receives Federal-aid funding, it begins to work closely with its state department of transportation (state DOT) to meet all Federal-aid requirements, such as environmental reviews, civil rights compliance, right-of-way acquisitions, safety, and construction and contract administration. Understanding Federal-aid requirements is critical to the successful delivery of federally funded projects at the local level. Non-compliance can lead to project delays and LPAs not receiving timely Federal-aid reimbursements.
To help LPAs meet their Federal-aid requirements, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently launched a new information-sharing initiative, called Federal-aid Essentials for Local Public Agencies, that offers an abundance of information about key aspects of the Federal-aid program on a single public website.
The Federal-aid Essentials website features a resource library of more than 80 informational videos and related materials. The videos focus on a single topic in the most critical areas of Federal-aid. The videos are relatively short (less than 10 minutes), professionally narrated in non-technical language, and supported with engaging graphics and animation that give viewers the most essential content. The videos can be viewed in any sequence from any computer or mobile device with Internet access.
When users first enter the Federal-aid Essentials website at www.fhwa.dot.gov/federal-aidessentials, they will be greeted with a brief introductory video about the Federal-aid Essentials initiative and how to navigate the Web site. From there, users will have access to the resource library via a convenient drop-down menu that presents seven categories of video modules:
- Federal-aid Program Overview
- Civil Rights
- Right of Way
- Product Development
- Project Construction and Contract Administration
After choosing a category, a menu of video modules for the specific category appears next to the video viewing screen. Users simply click on the desired video title and the presentation begins. On the same page, users have access to a wealth of companion materials, including a written, printable script of each video, the applicable Code of Federal Regulations, helpful reference information, and links to additional online resources. Another function allows users to give feedback on a particular video, the full resource library and the website itself.
If users have questions about a particular video’s content or about the Federal-aid program in general, they can click on a State Resources button on the main page and gain access to a list of useful information, including individual state and FHWA local office LPA coordinator contacts and web links to state DOTs, state LPA manuals, local technical assistance program (LTAP) centers, and other helpful online resources. A drop-down menu on the main page, titled “I want to know about…,” helps users find information quickly and conveniently about common Federal-aid topics. The site is regularly updated and new features added to meet state DOT and LPA needs and requests.
Since the modules are available anywhere there is Internet access, they can be used in a multitude of settings on any Internet-ready device. They can be shown at meetings, viewed in one’s office or viewed on a job site using a laptop computer or mobile device. A project team can access the videos on a minute’s notice anytime, anywhere for discussion with stakeholders and partners. After viewing the videos, viewers acquire enough knowledge to know what questions to ask their state DOT counterparts, what appropriate technical terminology to use, and how and where to get additional assistance. State DOTs and LPAs also can use the videos to augment training at the local level.
The Federal-aid Essentials website helps LPAs understand their Federal-aid requirements as they pursue better, faster and smarter ways of delivering the Federal-aid program at the local level.
You can read more about the Federal-aid Essentials initiative in FHWA’s Public Roads magazine at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/12septoct/03.cfm.