Some States Use More Highway Funding for Transit Than Others

A news study brings the receipts on state and regional transportation spending.

Read Time: 2 minutes

December 2, 2022, 8:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

TransitCenter shares news of a recent study by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program that digs into how states spend their federal transportation money, finding that less than 4 percent of eligible federal highway funding is spent on transit projects—a decision known as “flexing.”

“Only eight states were ‘superflexers,’ transferring more than 4% of their federal highway funding to FTA: Nevada, Washington, Arizona, New York, Vermont, Oregon, Maryland, California, and New Jersey,” explains the article of the study’s findings. According to the study, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) and the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) programs were the programs most likely to be flexed for transit projects.

The report also helps understand why certain states and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) decide to flex their federal money to transit projects: it all comes down to “state and regional priorities.” According to the article’s explanation of the study’s conclusion, “Where state and local decisionmakers value transit, states use more of their highway dollars for public transportation.”

The article digs into more detail on the examples of Vermont and New Jersey, the former as an example of a mostly rural state, the latter as mostly urban. At the regional level, the article identifies leadership from MPOs in California and New York.

A May 2022 article by TransitCenter details how states and MPOs can flex highway dollars for transit projects.

The “Federal Funding Flexibility: Use of Federal Aid Highway Fund Transfers by State DOTs” report by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program was published in June 2022 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

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