On Friday, February 24, 2023, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Administrator Shailen Bhatt, released an updated policy memo on how states should prioritize funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). As you know, on December 16, 2021 FHWA Deputy Administrator Stephanie Pollack had issued guidance encouraging states to prioritize maintaining current capacity with their discretionary IIJA funds. In his updated memo, Administrator Bhatt stressed the importance of maintaining roads in a state of good repair, but he highlighted that states should determine which projects they want to finance with their federal-aid highway formula dollars. The American Highway Users Alliance (Highway Users) is thrilled that Administrator Bhatt, since his confirmation, has acted quickly to update this policy memo.
The Highway Users has advocated for state flexibility with federal-aid formula funds since Deputy Administrator Pollack originally introduced the “fix it first” memo. Most recently, we joined a group of transportation industry stakeholders in sending a letter to Administrator Bhatt urging him to rescind the December 16 memo. You may view the coalition letter sent to Administrator Bhatt by clicking here. Additionally, the Highway Users had discussed the strategy of using the Congressional Review Act on the memo with staff for Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO). With the decision to rescind the December 16 memo, the Highway Users believe there is a great opportunity for the FHWA and Congress to move forward on remaining key priorities from the IIJA. As such, the Highway Users were very happy to see Administrator Bhatt highlight the need for the FHWA to move forward with implementing “One Federal Decision”; this policy will help streamline the approval process for new projects, building them faster and at a lower cost.