January 5, 2017
FHWA Needs To Strengthen Its Oversight of State Transportation Improvement Programs
Each year, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides about $40 billion in Federal funding to States for construction and improvements to the Nation’s highways and bridges. To ensure that States appropriately plan and budget for the use of these funds and meet Federal requirements Congress requires each State to submit to its FHWA Division Office and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Regional Office, a Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) that lists and describes each project that the State and metropolitan planning organizations plan to implement over a 4-year period. FHWA and FTA jointly approve each STIP to ensure that the State Departments of Transportation meet Federal requirements, such as fiscal constraint which demonstrates reasonably available project funding and reliable cost estimates. We conducted this audit to assess FHWA policies, procedures, and guidance for ensuring that STIPs receive comprehensive, consistent reviews and meet Federal requirements, including coordination with FTA.
Based on a sample of FHWA Division Offices, we determined that FHWA’s Guidance does not provide sufficient detail for STIP reviews in certain areas. Furthermore, FHWA Headquarters’ oversight process is not sufficient to routinely determine how well the Divisions ensure that the States comply with certain STIP requirements. As a result, most of the Division Offices we visited did not adequately document their STIP reviews or demonstrate sufficient action to ensure that the STIPs complied with Federal requirements for fiscal constraint. Furthermore, while FHWA’s Division Offices and FTA’s Regional Offices coordinated approval of STIPs, some Division Offices and FTA Regional Offices have not updated coordination agreements in a timely manner or mitigated duplicative reporting requirements.
We made five recommendations to strengthen FHWA’s oversight of Division Offices’ STIP reviews and clarify existing guidance to Division Offices. FHWA concurred with three of the recommendations.