By Wollack, Leslie
Nation's Cities Weekly , Vol. 15, No. 3
While federal transportation officials are sorting through the almost 300 pages of legislative language contained in the recently adopted Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), municipal officials are beginning to plan for new funds and new responsibilities under the new law.
Although many of the provisions of the ISTEA will require Department of Transportation regulations to implement, cities are preparing for an enhanced role in metropolitan planning and project selection.
Further, ISTEA expands the type of projects and activities eligible for federal funding and allows transfer of funds between highway and transit programs.
The ISTEA includes two basic federal programs for highway improvement and maintenance: the National Highway System (NHS) and the Surface Transportation Program (STP).
The NHS will consist of 155,000 miles to be designated by the Secretary of Transportation in consultation with state and local governments. The NHS will included all Interstate routes, designated urban and rural principal arterials, defense strategic highways and strategic highway connectors.
Congress funded the NHS at $21 billion for the six years of the legislation. One-half of the NHS funds may be transferred to the STP program by the state and full 100 percent with permission of the Transportation Secretary.
The NHS will also fund completion of the Interstate system, Interstate Substitute highway projects and an Interstate Maintenance program.
The Surface Transportation Program combines other highway programs into a flexible block grant that is distributed to states on formula basis with a direct suballocation to areas over 200,000 in population. DOT intends to release the sub-allocation amounts in the next few weeks.
Congress authorized $23.9 billion for the STP over the six-year life of the bill. A state must set aside ten percent of its allocation for safety construction activities and an additional 10 percent for transportation enhancements.
A new program will help cities comply with attainment requirements under the Clean Air Act. …