AASHTO Concerned Over Proposed FHWA Oversight

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials sent a letter on March 8 to the Federal Highway Administration expressing concern regarding efforts by the agency to expand its oversight of transportation performance measurements.

[Above image by AASHTO]

In January, the FHWA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking or NPRM that seeks to “update” federal performance management measures regarding the nation’s transportation system.

The organization said in its letter that state departments of transportation have served as stewards of the federal performance management framework enacted in 2012 in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21.

“Since initial implementation began in 2013, with the full effect of the federal law and subsequent iterations of regulations being in place since 2018, state DOTs have delivered on the congressional intent of the performance management provisions which is to provide a consistent framework to measure the performance of the transportation system,” AASHTO stressed.

“Under state DOT leadership, the national performance management framework has been implemented in a manner that advances a safer and more efficient transportation system without imposing significant undue regulatory burdens on states,” the letter noted.

From that perspective, AASHTO expressed concern regarding FHWA’s justification for establishing authority pertaining to “constant or improved performance from the baseline safety performance” for the nation’s transportation system.

“While AASHTO and the state DOTs are generally supportive of performance management provisions as implemented to date, we disagree with FHWA’s assertion in the NPRM,” AASHTO stressed.

The organization pointed out that every state and political subdivision faces “different constraints and opportunities” affecting the transportation systems in their respective areas. “Available funding is a particularly important variable for states in planning and target-setting, but there are other factors, including economic conditions, environmental conditions, population growth trends, legislative and gubernatorial mandates and priorities, coordination with local jurisdictions and their priorities, and issues identified in the public involvement process,” AASHTO noted.

AASHTO added that, “We strongly reemphasize this comment pertains strictly to target-setting in the context of the federally established performance management process, and it does not pertain in any way to advancement of safety outcomes.” In addition, AASHTO referred to the unanimous November 2023 adoption of a policy resolution by its Board that, “resolutely and firmly renews our commitment to connecting places and communities with a transportation system free of fatalities and serious injuries” and its initiation of the multi-disciplinary “Safety Action Plan” to guide state DOTs’ collective action.

AASHTO also expressed its disappointment that the comment period for this NPRM, originally set for only 30 days, was extended only by 15 days instead of 60 days as requested.  

“A 45-day comment period for this highly complex and technical NPRM significantly hindered the opportunity for state DOTs to provide informed responses,” the group stressed. “The insufficient review period without a clear rationale has unfortunately led to a lack of inclusivity in this rulemaking process.”

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