Analysis: Only 6 Percent of 2013 Federal-Aid Funding Went Into New Roads, Bridges

AASHTO Journal, 14 November 2014

A detailed breakdown of 2013 federal highway funding obligations by the Government Accountability Office shows states used just under 6 percent of the contract authority they received on construction projects that would build new roads or bridges, while the largest portion of the aid went into the existing system.

The Transportation Weekly newsletter reports – based on a recent GAO report and on answers it received when requesting more detail – that out of $41 billion in federal-aid highway contract authority states had in fiscal 2013, they used 5.9 percent to build new highways or bridges.

“Another 15 percent went to adding new capacity (usually, but not always, new lanes) to existing highways and bridges,” said the Nov. 10 report.

By far the biggest area in which states obligated their federal highway funding was upkeep. TW said “40 percent of the budget went to some kind of maintenance, rehab or refit of existing roads and bridges.”

The publication is produced by editor Jeff Davis, who is scheduled to appear on a panel at the AASHTO annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 23. That session will consider “Outside-the-Box Approaches to Fund Transportation.” (See the full agenda here.)

The TW analysis also said states directed 18.5 percent of their contract authority to support operations including engineering, right-of-way acquisition, planning and utilities. That work is “an integral part of all projects” the story said, but is not detailed as to type of projects or by new or existing capacity.

The breakdown said 6.3 percent of contract authority went to safety projects, while smaller amounts went to areas including federal lands, research, enhancements and environmental work. And 2.5 percent went to state or local debt service.

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