Last July, President Obama signed into law the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) to fund surface transportation programs at more than $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. MAP-21 is the first long-term highway authorization enacted since 2005 and will provide needed funds for the nation's aging infrastructure, but it also transforms the policy and programmatic framework for investments to guide growth and development of the country's vital transportation infrastructure.
Most notably, MAP-21 requires 3D modeling/virtual construction and visualization technology for all eligible projects. Section 1304 of the legislation authorizes as much as 100 percent federal financing for projects that contain innovative technologies such as "digital 3-dimensional modeling." This is a boon for firms that are experienced in both GIS and BIM technologies and can deliver a project quickly and efficiently using them. While the law is complex, the language surrounding its technology mandate is not. BIM, LiDAR, and GIS projects will be funded much more easily by the federal government than non-modeled, non-mapped projects. Planning and approval for 3D projects is also streamlined under the new law.
MAP-21 creates a performance-based, multimodal program to address the challenges facing our national transportation system such as improving safety, maintaining infrastructure condition, reducing traffic congestion, improving efficiency of the system and freight movement, protecting the environment, and reducing delays in project delivery. To do so, MAP-21 builds on and refines many of the highway, transit, bike, and pedestrian programs and policies established by the federal government in 1991.
MAP-21 expands the National Highway System (NHS) to incorporate principal arterial roads not previously included in its purview. This will greatly increase the size of the NHS during the next two years. Map-21 investment targets the enhanced NHS, with more than half of highway funding going to a new program devoted to preserving and improving the most important and in need of repair highways – the National Highway Performance Program.
Under MAP-21 rules, federal highway programs will provide a means to more efficient investment of taxpayer funds by focusing on national transportation goals, increasing the accountability and transparency of federal highway programs, and improving transportation investment decision making through performance-based planning and programming. Several state DOTs are already using performance-based funding. Performance measures are data about the use, condition, and impact of the transportation system, but MAP-21 only applies performance measurement at the programmatic level, rather than project level, and does not link performance measures and targets to funding decisions except in some very narrow circumstances.
MAP-21 authorizes $82 billion in federal funding for small road, bridge, bicycling, and walking improvements. MAP-21 also enhances financing systems and encourages private-sector investment through an increase in funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.
New program classifications
Under MAP-21 many disparate highway construction programs have been consolidated into a smaller number of broader core programs. Some smaller programs are eliminated, including most discretionary programs. Most importantly to civil engineers, this includes a host of changes aimed at ensuring the timely delivery of transportation projects. The new program structure consolidates much of the existing core federal highway program into four main areas:
National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) – provides support for the condition and performance of the NHS, for construction of new facilities on the NHS, and to ensure that investments of federal-aid funds in highway construction are directed to support progress toward achievement of performance targets established in a state's asset management plan for the NHS.
Surface Transportation Program (STP) – provides flexible funding that may be used by states and localities for projects on any federal-aid highway, including the NHS, bridge projects on any public road, transit capital projects, and intracity and intercity bus terminals and facilities.
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) – provides funding for projects and programs in air quality nonattainment and maintenance areas for ozone, carbon monoxide (CO), and particulate matter (PM-10, PM-2.5).
Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) – The HSIP Manual updates the 1981 HSIP User's Manual (FHWA-TS-81-218) to reflect current law, regulations, and new and emerging technologies and noteworthy practices regarding state and local highway safety improvement programs and related activities. The HSIP consists of three main components: planning, implementation, and evaluation.