Sneak Preview: More Data Sought from Highway Trust Fund Projects

November 14, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from an article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Government Accountability Office is urging Federal Highway Administration officials to assess the feasibility and the cost to collect consistent aggregate project-level spending data from all projects funded from the Highway Trust Fund. In a recent report, GAO reflects language from the Office of Management and Budget’s uniform grant guidance (§200.301) that requires recipients of federal funds to tie spending data to project outcomes and performance.

Gas taxes and other truck-related taxes that are used to maintain the Highway Trust Fund, which helps fund federal surface transportation programs, have declined over the last several years. To maintain current spending levels and cover revenue shortfalls, Congress transferred more than $50 billion in general revenues from 2008 to 2014 to the Highway Trust Fund. “This approach may not be sustainable over the long-term given competing demands for federal funding and the federal government’s growing fiscal challenges,” GAO said.

Most Highway Trust Funds are administered by FHWA, which distributes the funds to states through discretionary and formula grants established under the federal-aid highway program. FHWA tracks highway program obligations and the types of funded activities (e.g., road resurfacing, safety improvements, sidewalks and bicycle trails) in its Fiscal Management and Information System.

While FHWA collects information in FMIS on the type of activities funded, it does not collect and report aggregate spending data at the project level for most projects. For example, a new highway project generally has four stages — planning, preliminary design and environmental review, final design and right-of-way acquisition, and construction — which can involve multiple project segments or contracts over many years, and FHWA currently does not link all project sections associated with an entire project in FMIS. “Although FHWA is able to collect and report federal obligations by individual contract, it is not able to aggregate this information to collect and report total federal obligations for an entire project,” GAO explained.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site).



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