Six states awarded $15.5 million in federal grants to explore new ways to pay for highways

Updated Nov 1, 2017

bridge constructionSix states have been awarded $15.5 million in federal grants to explore new ways to fund highway and U.S. bridge projects, which the Federal Highway Administration calls “imperative.”

The agency points to the Highway Trust Fund’s “gradual inability to keep pace with increasing construction and repair costs nationwide” as the reason we need alternatives to conventional financing to fix America’s infrastructure.

“To ensure the U.S. road system is the best in the world, we can no longer rely solely on the federal gas tax and the Highway Trust Fund,” says Brandye L. Hendrickson, acting administrator for the agency.

“New sources of funding for the design, construction and repair of our nation’s roadways have never been more necessary, and these grants will help open the door to new financial innovations.”

Brandye L. HendricksonBrandye L. Hendrickson

Federal Highway Administration officials selected seven proposals from six states – California, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri, Washington and Oregon.

The projects will investigate and evaluate various user-based approaches to raising revenue, including onboard vehicle technologies to charge drivers based on miles traveled and multi-state or regional approaches to road user charges, the agency says.

The projects will address common challenges involved with implementing user-based fees, such as public acceptance, privacy protection, equity and geographic diversity, the Federal Highway Administration says.

The projects will also evaluate the reliability and security of the technologies that are available to implement mileage-based fees.

The Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) funds were awarded to projects that will test the design, implementation and acceptance of user-based alternative revenue tools.

Here are brief summaries of the projects:

FY 2017 Grant Selections

State DOT
Recipients and Partners
Project/Description Funding Amount
California Dept. of Transportation (Caltrans) The project will explore mechanisms to collect revenue at pay-at-the-pump charging stations. $1,750,000
Colorado Dept. of Transportation (CDOT) The project will investigate data collection mechanisms. $500,000
Delaware Dept. of Transportation (DelDOT) in partnership with the I-95 Corridor Coalition The project will study equitability and privacy issues in a multi-state region. $975,000
Missouri Dept. of Transportation (MoDOT) The project will conduct public outreach on concerns related to equity and data security issues. $2,772,500
Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT) The project will initiate improvements to Oregon’s existing road usage charge program. $2,315,000
Oregon Dept. of Transportation (ODOT) in partnership with the Western Road User Charge Consortium (WRUCC) The project will launch a pilot between California and Oregon to connect the two states’ per-mile road user charging systems, to ultimately expand the concept regionally. $2,590,000
Washington Dept. of Transportation (WSDOT) in partnership with the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) The project will conduct public outreach with users regarding method for assessing and collecting fees.


STSFA was established in 2015 under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

It was the first federal law in more than a decade to provide long-term funding for surface transportation infrastructure planning and investment, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

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The FAST Act authorizes $305 billion in fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for highway and motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety and rail. It also funds research, technology and statistics programs.

With a focus on safety, states and local governments can move ahead with critical transportation projects with the certainty they will have a federal partner, the Federal Highway Administration says.

Concerns about the nation’s highways are outlined in Beyond Traffic, a 2016 USDOT report examining the challenges facing America’s transportation infrastructure over the next three decades, including a rapidly growing population and increasing traffic.

Gridlock is expected to increase nationwide unless changes are made soon, federal officials say.