At least 10% of the $24 billion, 6-year authorization in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) that created the surface transportation program was required to be set aside exclusively for 10 categories of "transportation enhancements", or projects designed to strengthen the cultural, aesthetic, or environmental aspects of transportation or to encourage greater use of nonmotorized transportation. In examining this set-aside, the General Accounting Office (GAO) addressed the following questions: (1) How do the obligation rates for transportation enhancement funds for fiscal years 1992-95 compare with the obligation rates for other major highway programs? (2) How do the obligation rates for transportation enhancement funds vary by state, and what factors have affected the states' use of these funds? (3) What types of projects are being funded with transportation enhancement funds? and (4) What are stakeholders' views on reauthorizing the transportation enhancement set-aside? Briefly, GAO found the following: The states obligated 22% of the available funds in FY 1992 and increased this to 55% by FY 1995--obligation rates much lower than those for other federal-aid highway programs. Obligation rates vary substantially from state to state. Factors hindering the states' obligations include the time and staff resources required to implement a new program, the nontraditional nature of transportation enhancement projects, and sponsors' lack of familiarity with the administrative requirements of federal-aid highway programs. Data from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy show that bicycle and pedestrian projects have received more than one-third of the obligated funds, while rail-to-trail conversions, restorations of historic transportation facilities, and landscaping projects have each received approximately 15 to 17%. Mixed views have been expressed on reauthorizing the set-aside. Twelve of 16 state officials preferred more flexibility in deciding how much federal aid to devote to transportation enhancement activities. They considered them less important than improving highway capacity or mobility. The other 4 state officials, as well as five interest group representatives and 4 project sponsors, supported the existing set-aside and felt that not having a set percentage for transportation enhancements would result in substantially less funding for such activities.

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  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Report to Congressional Requesters.
  • Corporate Authors:

    U.S. General Accounting Office

    441 G Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20548
  • Publication Date: 1996-7


  • English

Media Info

  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Photos;
  • Pagination: 56 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00728409
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: GAO/RCED-96-156
  • Files: NTL, TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 12 1996 12:00AM