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Home arrowNews arrowAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Implementation by the Federal Highway Administration & State Departments of Transportation (DOTs)

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Implementation by the Federal Highway Administration & State Departments of Transportation (DOTs)

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), authorizing $48.1 billion for transportation projects. From this amount, $26.6 billion will go to the states for highway restoration, repair, construction and other activities to improve the Federal Aid highway system. ARRA also provides $84 billion for transit; $8.4 billion for high speed rail; $1.3 billion for Amtrak; and $1.5 billion for National Surface Transportation Discretionary Grants. Three percent (3%) of the funding available to the Federal Highway Administration is set aside for transportation enhancement (TE) projects (see more about the TE Program below).

On May 15, 2009, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the availability of $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grants for capital investment in surface transportation projects. TIGER grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area and can create jobs and benefit economically distressed areas. Applications for these funds were due September 15, 2009.

The delivery of Economic Recovery projects is top priority for FHWA, which has redirected staff and hired additional staff to support the increased workload. States may independently select projects for ARRA funding as long as they meet FHWA's eligibility requirements. Although Federal Aid funds may not be used for routine maintenance activities, they may be used for preventative maintenance; those activities that are a cost-effective means of extending the useful life of a Federal Aid highway or bridge. Because of the need to allocate funds quickly, states have focused on “shovel-ready” projects for which environmental review, including Section 106, have been completed; and smaller, non-controversial projects without conflicts regarding historic properties. Many state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) have been working closely with their State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) to facilitate the review of ARRA projects that have not been through the Section 106 process; for example, Wisconsin DOT meets monthly with its SHPO to discuss ARRA projects.

To date, FHWA has not sought from the ACHP alternative procedures for review of ARRA projects. States and FHWA Divisions have been able to absorb the large number of ARRA projects requiring environmental review and fast turnaround because most, if not all, state DOTs have on staff qualified professionals with experience in carrying out the requirements of Section 106. Also, 28 states operate under statewide Section 106 Programmatic Agreements that significantly streamline Section 106 review for Federal Aid Highway projects in those states.

According the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, all state departments of transportation succeeded in meeting the June 30 deadline for obligating half their highway economic recovery funds, and projects were already underway in 45 states. As of September 4, 2009, FHWA reported that 3,455 ARRA projects were under construction; over $10 billion of ARRA funds had been obligated; and $1.5 billion expended. All highway funds must be obligated by March 2, 2010.

For more information visit the FHWA's Economic Recovery Web site; and the Recovery Web site for the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials.

For information on the coordination of Section 106 review for ARRA projects, visit the ACHP's ARRA Web site.

Transportation Enhancements under ARRA

Transportation Enhancements (TE) activities are federally funded community-based projects that expand travel choices and enhance the transportation experience by improving the cultural, historic, aesthetic, and environmental aspects of our transportation infrastructure. Three percent (3%) of the funding available to the Federal Highway Administration under the ARRA is set aside for transportation enhancement (TE) projects. These funds, approximately $800 million, are available to local government for historic preservation and other enhancement projects. This amount supplements a 10% TE set-aside from the existing Federal Surface Transportation Program, and offers a valuable source of funding for a wide range of projects that support historic preservation.

Projects submitted for consideration need to meet the eligibility criteria for the TE program and must relate to surface transportation. Surface transportation includes transport both by land and water. Transport by water encompasses features such as canals, lighthouses, and docks or piers connecting to ferry operations. The TE project sponsor must illustrate the project's relationship to surface transportation in the project proposal. Factors that can help establish this relationship include the project's proximity to a highway or a pedestrian/bicycle corridor; whether it enhances the aesthetic, cultural, or historic aspects of the travel experience; and whether it serves a current or past transportation purpose. Additional information about the program is available on FHWA's Web site and at the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse.

To submit an application for TE funds or to learn more about the TE program in your state, contact the TE manager(s) at your state department of transportation. TE managers are responsible for the implementation of the TE program and the distribution of funds. The 12 eligible activities are described in the table below.

  Activity Examples
1. Provision of facilities for pedestrians and bicycles. New or reconstructed sidewalks, walkways, or curb ramps; wide paved shoulders for nonmotorized use, bike lane striping, bike parking, and bus racks; construction or major rehabilitation of off-road shared use paths (nonmotorized transportation trails); trailside and trailhead facilities for shared use paths; bridges and underpasses for pedestrians and bicyclists and for trails.
2. Provision of safety and educational activities for pedestrians and bicyclists. Educational activities to encourage safe walking and bicycling.
3. Acquisition of scenic easements and scenic or historic sites (including historic battlefields). Acquisition of scenic land easements, vistas, and landscapes; acquisition of buildings in historic districts or historic properties, including historic battlefields.
4. Scenic or historic highway programs (including the provision of tourist and welcome center facilities). For projects related to scenic or historic highway programs: Construction of turnouts, overlooks, and viewing areas; construction of visitor and welcome centers; designation signs and markers.
5. Landscaping and other scenic beautification. Landscaping, street furniture, lighting, public art, and gateways along highways, streets, historic highways, trails, and waterfronts. Landscaping recommendation: see FHWA's Roadside Vegetation Management website.
6. Historic preservation. Preservation of buildings in historic districts; restoration and reuse of historic buildings for transportation-related purposes.
7. Rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation buildings, structures, or facilities (including historic railroad facilities and canals). Restoration of historic railroad depots, bus stations, ferry terminals and piers, and lighthouses; rehabilitation of rail trestles, tunnels, and bridges; restoration of historic canals, canal towpaths, and historic canal bridges.
8. Preservation of abandoned railway corridors (including the conversion and use of the corridors for pedestrian or bicycle trails). Acquiring railroad rights-of-way; planning, designing, and constructing multiuse trails; developing rail-with-trail projects.
9. Inventory, control, and removal of outdoor advertising. Billboard inventories and removal of illegal and nonconforming billboards. Inventory control may include, but not be limited to, data collection, acquisition and maintenance of digital aerial photography, video logging, scanning and imaging of data, developing and maintaining an inventory and control database, and hiring of outside legal counsel.
10. Archaeological planning and research. Research, preservation planning, and interpretation of archaeological artifacts; curation for artifacts related to surface transportation and artifacts recovered from locations within or along surface transportation corridors.
11. Environmental mitigation-- (i) to address water pollution due to highway runoff; or (ii) reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality while maintaining habitat connectivity. For existing highway runoff: soil erosion controls, detention and sediment basins, and river clean-ups. Wildlife underpasses or other measures to reduce vehicle caused wildlife mortality and/or to maintain wildlfe habitat connectivity.
12. Establishment of transportation museums. Construction of new transportation museums; additions to existing museums for a transportation section; conversion of railroad stations or historic properties to museums with transportation themes.

Posted September 21, 2009

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