100 years of federal highway funds

By |  June 13, 2016
1926: This graphic from a 1926 edition of Pit & Quarry shows the distribution of the highway dollar, taking the 48 states at the time and averaging the expenditures.

This graphic from a 1926 edition of Pit & Quarry shows the distribution of the highway dollar, taking the 48 states at the time and averaging the expenditures. Click to enlarge.

New and better roads have driven demand for aggregates over the past century. Take a look back at some of the milestone moments that helped to drive the industry:

1916: President Woodrow Wilson signs into law the Federal Aid Road Act, the first federal highway bill supporting state highway costs in the nation’s history. The bill provides $75 million in federal funds over five years.

1925: The Federal-Aid Highway Act establishes the first interstate highway system in the United States. The new system establishes uniform numbers for interstate highways, and a universally recognizable shield is standardized.

1926: By now, $1 billion is spent annually on highways. Of the more than 3 million miles of highway in the United States, only about 500,000 are paved.

1936: In the waning years of the Great Depression, $1.8 billion in federal and state funds are earmarked for road construction, according to Pit & Quarry’s archives.

1944: Another Federal-Aid Highway Act calls for the designation of a National System of Interstate Highways to include up to 40,000 miles.

1951: The federal government apportions $500 million to states for highways in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

1956: The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956, arguably the greatest public works project of all-time, sets up a 41,000-mile interstate highway construction program. About $25 billion is approved to complete the program within 13 years.

1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Federal-Aid Highway Act, adding $5.2 billion to previous authorizations for the interstate system, raising the cost estimate for completing the system to $46 billion and extending the completion date to 1972.

1976: The latest Federal-Aid Highway Act launches a program allowing federal funds to be used for resurfacing, restoration and rehabilitation of existing highways.

1982: The Surface Transportation Assistance Act extends federal highway funds and permits states to move funds allocated for certain urbanized areas to other areas.

1991: The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act provides authorizations for highways, highway safety and mass transit for the next six years. The total funding of $155 billion was available into 1997.

1993: President Bill Clinton signs the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, increasing the gas tax by 4.3 cents per gallon. The increase raises the total tax to 18.4 cents per gallon, but the gas tax has not been raised since.

2005: The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, a $244.1 billion bill, passes. At the time, the bill represents the largest surface transportation investment in U.S. history.

2015: The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act infuses $305 billion of federal funds into surface transportation infrastructure, providing some funding certainty for aggregate producers following the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry magazine. Yanik can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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