Construction and the Law in Texas

Recently, President Obama signed into law the new 2012 highway bill, which often is discussed in the media as highway funding and jobs creation legislation. However, very few stories or outlets provided a good summary of just what the bill includes and what it means for Texas. The actual title of the bill is the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. It is referred to in legislative circles as MAP-21.

MAP-21 is both lengthy and complex. It provides far more than a grant of funds for transportation projects. The major goals of MAP-21 are as follows: 1) Strengthen America’s highways by incorporating previously unincorporated arterials into the National Highway System, and preser ve and improve these highways through the Nation Highway Preser vation Program; 2) Establish performance based criteria for investment decision-making to further national transportation goals; 3) Create jobs by investing a total of $82 billion in improvement projects for road, bridge, bicycling and walking infrastructure; 4) Continue support of the Highway Safety Improvement Program by doubling funding for infrastructure safety, including efforts to combat distracted driving ; 5)Streamline the existing and expansive federal highway program into several core programs, eliminating smaller programs while preser ving eligibilities under restructured core programs; and 6) Accelerate project delivery and promote innovation by creating more efficient project development, planning and environmental review processes.

With respect to funding , MAP-21 extends the current highway bill extension, passed earlier this year, through the end of fiscal year 2012. MAP-21 then continues current funding levels for fiscal year 2013 with minor adjustments for inflation in fiscal year 2014. That amount translates to $40.4 billion for 2013 and $41 billion for 2014. For Texas, our projected funding total for FY 2013 is $3.056 billion, the same as FY 2012, and $3.1 billion for FY 2014.

Within these figures, the funding is divided among various programs, the National Highway Performance Program ($1.8 billion), the Surface Transportation Program ($824.3 million), the Highway Safety Improvement Program ($196.9 million), the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvements Program ($144.1 million), Metropolitan Planning ($21.2 million), as well as some Transportation Alternatives ($77.8 million). The allocated dollars for each of these programs in Texas is listed in parentheticals.

MAP-21 preserves and enhances metropolitan and statewide transportation planning processes by incorporating performance measures, goals, and targets into the identification of improvement needs and project selection. The most significant feature of MAP-21, as compared to its predecessors, is the transition to a performance and outcome based program. To that end, MAP-21 establishes the following national performance goals for federal highway programs that receive funding under the Act.

  •  Safety – to achieve a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads.
  •  Infrastructure condition – to maintain the highway infrastructure asset system in a state of good repair.
  •  Congestion reduction – to achieve a significant reduction in congestion on the Interstate Highway and National Highway System (NHS).
  •  System reliability – to improve the efficiency of the surface transportation system.
  •  Freight movement and economic vitality – to improve the national freight network, strengthen the ability of rural communities to access national and international trade markets, and support regional economic development.
  •  Environmental sustainability – to enhance the performance of the transportation system while protecting and enhancing the natural environment.
  •  Reduced project delivery delays – to reduce project costs, promote jobs and the economy, and expedite the movement of people and goods by accelerating project completion through eliminating delays in the project development and delivery process, including reducing regulatory burdens and improving agencies’ work practices.

Under MAP-21, the U.S. Department of Transportation will work with each state to establish measures for pavement conditions and performance for the NHS, bridge conditions, safety and traffic fatalities, congestion, emissions and freight movement. If performance goals are not met, corrective actions on part of the state are required or funding will be lost.

In addition to streamlining federal highway programs and consolidating bureaucracy, MAP-21 allows for more streamlined project delivery by reducing the burden of project review and environmental regulatory compliance. Authority to grant “categorical exclusions” has been expanded under Map-21. Categorical exclusions describe actions that do not typically result in significant environmental impacts. When a categorical exclusion is granted, the environmental review of a project by federal authorities is streamlined and the planning authority can forego the normally required, expensive, and time-consuming Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Statements.

With respect to Texas and our funding under MAP- 21, more than half of federal monies granted to Texas goes to the National Highway Performance Program (NHPP). This program is quite broad and allows the $1.7 billion in grants to be used for construction, reconstruction, resurfacing , restoration or improvements to a NHS segment. Also qualif ying under the NHPP is the construction, replacement, or rehabilitation of a bridge or tunnel, as well as training and provision of bridge and tunnel inspectors. Highway safety improvements and bicycle transportation or pedestrian walkways also qualif y for NHPP funds. Finally, workforce development, training , and education activities also qualify as eligible expenditures of NHPP funds.

This article provides a fairly simple summary of a complex bill and does not address funding levels for states other than Texas. For more information on MAP-21, the U.S. Department of Transportation provides excellent resources on its website. Some of the information contained in this piece comes from that site. You can find out more at

– As seen in the September 2012 Issue of Texas Contractor.