Highway program

Iowa highway Under the Recovery Act, Iowa is expected to receive an estimated $358.2 million by formula through the Federal Highway Administration for restoration, repair, construction and other activities under paragraph (b) of section 133 of title 23 of the United States Code, and for passenger and freight rail transportation and port infrastructure projects eligible for assistance under subsection 601(a)(8) of that title. Priority must be given to projects that are projected to be completed within three years and located in economically distressed areas. FHWA has developed a diagnostic self-assessment tool that can easily be used to determine if Iowa has been responsive to this requirement. This tool utilizes a map that depicts project locations relative to economically distressed counties. The federal share payable on any project or activity carried out with these funds shall be, at the option of the recipient, up to 100 percent of the total cost.

Highway Funding Flow Chart

RPA/MPO funding

The Recovery Act requires that 30 percent of the stateís total be sub-allocated within the state based on population. In Iowa, and in keeping with its longstanding level of distribution for Federal Highway Funds, the Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Regional Planning Affiliations (RPAs) will be receiving a higher amount of approximately 33.5 percent or $120 million.

Transportation Enhancements

One of the provisions of the Recovery Act is a requirement that states set aside a minimum of 3 percent of their total highway funding for Transportation Enhancement (TE) activities. In Iowa, that amounts to $10,744,873.

Due to the inability of local governments to expend their share of Transportation Enhancement funds by the federal deadline, additional funds totaling $431,956 were allocated for trails projects of statewide significance and an equal amount subtracted from the local share of funding.  This permitted one additional project to be funded and the list of state Transportation Enhancement projects was updated.

Iowa's nine MPOs and 18 RPAs selected and programmed $7,275,500 in TE projects. To reach the 3 percent minimum set aide, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) solicited funding requests for trail-related transportation enhancement projects of statewide significance. The Iowa DOT received 121 applications totally $87 million. On March 10, 2009, the Iowa Transportation Commission approved $5 million in trail-related enhancement projects, using the Iowa DOTís share of Recovery Act funding.

Combined, a total of $12,275,500 in local and state enhancement projects have been programmed, which is $1,530,640 above the 3 percent minimum target.

“Many thanks to the Iowa DOT and Commission for all of your support to fund trails projects above and beyond the minimum required through the ARRA. The fact that nearly $90 million was requested indicates a strong demand for trails funding.”
- Lisa Hein, Iowa Heritage Foundation

Division of Iowa DOTís share of formula highway funding

The Iowa DOTís share of highway funding is approximately $238.2 million. Those monies were allocated as follows: $5 million for trail-related transportation enhancement projects (see Transportation Enhancements section above); $5 million for freight rail projects; and $228.2 million for highway projects.

Highway project selections

Candidate projects to be funded in whole or partially with ARRA highway funding have been selected. Selection of state highway projects was made by the Iowa DOT. Local projects were selected by the MPOs and RPAs, in cooperation with the cities and counties. In making their selections, agencies followed these guidelines defined in the ARRA.
  • Allowable uses: Funds may be used for restoration, repair, construction, and other activities eligible under the federal Surface Transportation Program (STP), and for eligible passenger and freight rail transportation and port infrastructure projects. The STP provides flexible funding that may be used for a wide variety of projects on any federal-aid highway, including bridge projects; carpool, pedestrian, bicycle, and safety projects; a project for intercity passenger bus or rail facilities and vehicles, including facilities and vehicles owned by Amtrak; a project for a public freight rail facility or a private facility providing public benefit for highway users; an intermodal freight transfer facility; a means of access to an intermodal facility – including a capital investment for an intelligent transportation system; a series of projects with the common objective of improving the flow of goods; surface transportation modifications necessary to facilitate direct intermodal interchange, transfer and access into and out of a port.
  • Included in the STIP or TIP: The project must be on an approved Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) or local Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), as applicable, prior to obligation/authorization of funds.
  • Expeditious project delivery: Preference shall be given to projects\activities that can be started and completed expeditiously, including a goal of obligating at least 50 percent of the state’s share of funds no later than June 17, 2009.
  • Three-year completion priority: Priority shall be given to projects\activities that are projected for completion by Feb. 17, 2012.
  • Economically distressed areas: Priority shall be given to projects that are located in economically distressed areas, as defined by section 301 of the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, as amended (42 U.S.C. 3161).
  • Maximizing job creation and economic benefit: Use funds in a manner that maximizes job creation and economic benefit.

The state and MPO/RPA lists included on this page identify “candidate” projects. The distinction between a “candidate” and an “ARRA-funded” project is that until the state or local agency identifies to the Federal Highway Administration that they will be using ARRA funds for the project, it is not reported as an ARRA project.

The Iowa DOT acknowledges that some projects in the candidate lists are not yet fully developed and unanticipated circumstances may arise that prevent the project from moving forward in time to utilize the funds. In that instance, the Iowa DOT or local agency will select a replacement so that Iowa can still take full advantage of available ARRA funds.

In addition, until bid lettings are held and contracts awarded, precise costs are unknown. If contractor bids are less than estimated, it is possible that another project or portions of other projects could be added to the list. If bids are higher than estimated, fewer projects would be able to utilize available ARRA funding.

For information on bidding on highway projects, visit Iowa Bid Express.

Freight rail projects

One of the unique provisions of the Recovery Act is that formula highway funding may also be used for public transit, transportation enhancements, passenger rail, freight rail, and ports. Of those eligible uses, freight rail was the one mode of transportation in Iowa with ready-to-go projects, but no dedicated funding in the Recovery Act.

Therefore, in March 2009, the Iowa Transportation Commission directed the Iowa DOT to solicit applications from railroads and other interested parties for freight rail projects that would utilize up to $5 million in Recovery Act highway funding, which had not yet been programmed. The Iowa DOT received 33 project applications totaling $48 million from 24 applicants, including railroads, businesses, local governments, and a regional development corporation. The projects were evaluated based on their:

  • Level of readiness to be constructed in a timely manner.
  • Potential for economic development.
  • Freight traffic benefits, such as increased capability to move freight, improved service to rail customers or value of rail access to a business or group of businesses.

On May 12, 2009, the Commission approved four projects valued at $5 million for railroad development and rehabilitation activities.

Supplement, Not Supplant and Maintenance-of-Effort provisions

The purpose of the Recovery Act is to stimulate the U.S. economy with an infusion of new funding that will create new jobs and help retain existing ones. As such, states are required (and local agencies expected) to use Recovery Act funds to supplement, not supplant, existing transportation investment plans and programs.

States must also comply with the maintenance-of-effort provision, in which they must continue to expend (through Sept. 30, 2010) funds from state resources at the same levels as of the date of enactment of the Recovery Act and for the types of projects that are funded by the appropriations.

These provisions in the Recovery Act have essentially freed up other federal, state and local funds to be used to add new transportation projects to state and local programs, expand the scope of projects and move projects scheduled in the outer years of programs up to earlier years.

On March 10, 2009, the Iowa Transportation Commission amended the stateís FY2009-2013 Transportation Improvement Program by $227.8 million, adding new highway projects and rescheduling some previously approved projects to fiscal year 2009.