Transportation:

Highway Trust Fund Expenditures on Purposes Other than Construction and Maintenance of Highways and Bridges during Fiscal Years 2004-2008

GAO-09-729R: Published: Jun 30, 2009. Publicly Released: Jul 30, 2009.

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The Highway Trust Fund (HTF) was created in 1956 to finance the construction of the Interstate Highway System. This system, built in partnership with state and local governments for over 50 years, has become central to transportation in the United States. Over these 50 years, the federal role in surface transportation has expanded to include broader goals and more programs. Although most surface transportation funds remain dedicated to highway infrastructure, federal surface transportation programs now serve additional transportation, environmental, and societal purposes such as construction of pedestrian walkways and safety enforcement facilities along border regions. The 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) authorized $244.1 billion over 5 years for highways, highway safety, and public transportation, with the HTF serving as the funding source for most of the act's programs. In addition to authorizing funds for construction and maintenance of highways and bridges, the act specifies other purposes for which funding must or may be used, including, but not limited to, safety; metropolitan planning; transit; and transportation enhancement activities, such as trails for transportation purposes, pedestrian walkways, bicycle lanes and parking, and related projects. Some of these activities have elements related to, or that contribute to, construction and maintenance of highways and bridges. Within the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are responsible for administering the grant programs funded by the HTF. In response to Congressional concerns regarding resource challenges facing the nation's current surface transportation programs and policies, this report provides information on the amount of HTF monies the DOT agencies obligated for purposes other than construction and maintenance of highways and bridges during fiscal years 2004 through 2008.

During fiscal years 2004 through 2008, four agencies within the Department of Transportation obligated about $78 billion in HTF monies for purposes other than construction and maintenance of highways and bridges and had total authorizations of $243.1 billion during that time for all purposes. In particular, (1) FHWA had total authorizations of about $195.3 billion and obligated nearly $28 billion for purposes other than construction and maintenance of highways and bridges in accordance with its mission. (2) FTA had total authorizations of about $42.2 billion and obligated over $44 billion for purposes other than construction and maintenance of highways and bridges in accordance with its mission. (3) NHTSA had total authorizations of about $3.2 billion and obligated $3.1 billion in HTF monies for purposes other than construction and maintenance of highways and bridges in accordance with its mission. (4) FMCSA had total authorizations of about $2.4 billion and obligated approximately the same amount for purposes other than construction and maintenance of highways and bridges in accordance with its mission.

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