Transportation Policy Council, Houston-Galveston Area Council
February 22, 2019
Talking points and background information as prepared by Jonathan Brooks, Director of Policy and Planning at LINK Houston
- TPC should investigate any opportunities to bring additional funds to our region, such as through supporting an eligible stakeholder in competing for
- TTC/state-held unused Surface Transportation Program Block Grant (STPBG) funds.
Example: TxDOT To Distribute $19 Million For Bike And Pedestrian Projects
- If STPBG funds, those not allocated to regions or set-aside, are presently being transferred to other federal programs, such as the National Highway Performance Program, then TPC should consider advocating for the funds remaining available for STBG flexible use in a statewide competitive grant program.
- STPBG funds have “the most flexible eligibilities among all Federal-aid highway programs”. FHWA states the STBG’s program purpose is to “provide flexible funding that may be used by States and localities for projects to preserve and improve the conditions and performance on any Federal-aid highway, bridge and tunnel projects on any public road, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and transit capital projects, including intercity bus terminals”.
- TxDOT Houston District is the region’s stakeholder with the most likely success in securing additional flexible funds for active transportation. Local governments and special districts do not have an existing direct relationship with the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC). TxDOT should consider seeking to bring more funds for active transportation to the Houston region by exploring all available mechanism with TTC, such as non-suballocated STBG funds.
Background on Federal Funding and TTC
A complete explanation of federal and state funding for transportation in the Houston region would fill volumes and require extensive research. The prime source of federal funding of transportation funds is the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or “FAST Act”. Roughly 27 separate funding programs exist; the primary programs relevant for this conversation are those administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). FTA funds are apportioned based on formulas and are not the subject of this present document. FHWA funds are apportioned by various means to states – most commonly by a state’s share of the U.S. population. The most important FHWA programs are (Texas Annual FY 2019 Apportionment, $ millions):
- National Highway Performance ($2,155m)
- *Surface Transportation Block Grant ($1,077m)
- Highway Safety Improvement ($216m)
- Railway-Highway Crossings ($20m)
- Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality ($177m)
- Metropolitan Planning ($26m)
- National Highway Freight ($120m)
Surface Transportation Program Block Grant funds have “the most flexible eligibilities among all Federal-aid highway programs” . FHWA states the STBG’s program purpose is to “provide flexible funding that may be used by States and localities for projects to preserve and improve the conditions and performance on any Federal-aid highway, bridge and tunnel projects on any public road, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and transit capital projects, including intercity bus terminals” .
States are required/allowed to set-aside some of the apportionment:
- Funding for Transportation Alternatives (population driven sub-allocation, governors may opt-out)
- 2% for State Planning and Research (i.e., supports internal and university research programs)
- Funding for bridges not on Federal-aid highways (i.e., for “Off-system” bridges)
- Governors may designate up to 5% for border infrastructure projects
Some of the funds that remain after set-asides are sub-allocated to regions based on population categories (regions with less than 5,000 population, areas with 5,000 to 199,999 population, and urbanized area with populations greater than 200,000). In FY 2019 states are required to sub-allocate 54% of STBG funds. Any remaining funds can be retained and used statewide OR may be transferred to other Federal-aid programs (up to 50% can be transferred) – any of the other programs listed above.
The Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) is the authoritative body for administering federal-aid and state funding sources in Texas.
TTC sub-allocates STBG funds as required, but it is unclear if the state retains a portion in a highly flexible statewide STBG account within the State Highway Fund or if STBG funds remaining are transferred into another program. Regardless, it is likely that there are funds available at the state level for alternative transportation program projects, or any other use for that matter, that may not come to Houston region at all unless more advocacy is conducted to secure their use in our region. TxDOT Houston District is best positioned to seek these funds from TTC, likely in competition with other Districts or TTC priorities.
Background on H-GAC 2018 Call for Projects for 2019-2022 TIP
The 2018 Call for Projects solicited projects from eligible stakeholders (TxDOT Houston District, city/county government, and special districts) in the 8-county transportation management area governed by the H-GAC Transportation Policy Council. Approximately $922m in federal+match funding is available. The other approximately $8,376m funds coming into the region from Texas Transportation Commission, TxDOT Traffic Operations Division, or TxDOT Houston District represent 85% of the funding total and are programmed without TPC direction as they are part of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The $922m funds from several state-defined categories (authorized by Texas Transportation Commission to the H-GAC MPO) whose decision-making rests primarily with TPC, some fund categories require consultation with TxDOT (e.g., categories 5, 7, 8, 9) and/or TCEQ (e.g., CMAQ).
Projects were solicited in four grouped investment areas:
- Major Investments
o 5 projects submitted, 3 projects scored for funding
o $362m federal funds requested, $542m total project costs (67% requested)
o 64 projects submitted, 63 projects scored for funding
o $1,204m federal funds requested, $1,673m total project costs (72% requested)
o 29 projects submitted and scored for funding
o $413m federal funds requested, $611m total project costs (68% requested)
- Active Transportation
o 42 projects submitted, 41 scored for funding
o $294m federal funds requested, $397m total project costs (74% requested)
o TPC planned federal investment amount: $16m + $4m match = $20m total