Do we Need a Federal Highway Administration

FHWA-logoPrivate Enterprise built the Transcontinental Railroad without the benefit of a “Federal Railroad Administration.”

When was the last time you saw a Federal work crew performing any work on a US or Interstate highway? The answer is most likely never.

Highway work, even on Federal highways (with the exception of some military bases) is performed by State agencies and private contractors hired and paid for by those agencies, with State funds.

Of course they do get reimbursed (in part) by from monies allocated by congress, to the Federal Highway Administration and Department of Transportation.

Where does that money come from? — The States!

Here’s the deal: The Feds take a huge amount of money from the States. They also get a substantial amount from Federal taxes on gasoline and excise taxes on tires.

They eat up a huge amount of this State money feeding bureaucracy, earmarks, waste and fraud. The “picked-over leftovers” are then returned to the States, but not necessarily in proportion to their  contribution. A lot of strings and earmarks for other States are almost always attached.


Why does this agency still exist, and how can it be ‘gracefully’ replaced by fewer than one hundred State-paid people, no new office buildings and [maybe] only a precious few “Feds?”


I applaud President Eisenhower and the role of his administration for the completion of the Interstate Highway System.

Most of the rules, agencies and associated trappings created by his and some prior administrations were absolutely necessary for the success of such an enormous project which touched every State in many ways.

This project was clearly in the spirit of what the founders called “the common good.”

The massively complex initial construction phase of this impressive task, however, is finished.

The Federal Highway System is now in “maintenance and incremental expansion” mode, and those tasks are already being performed by State planners, engineers, local agencies, and private enterprise under State, City and County contracts.

Where the Highway System is now concerned, the Federal government’s Constitutionally defined “common good” role should only be to make certain that the States adhere to certain minimum, mutually agreed upon uniform standards Other than making sure that the highway system meets these standards the Feds have no other legitimate purpose in the Highway Arena.

A Solution?

Replace the entire Federal agency with a committee of the fifty individual State highway administrators and/or their representatives.

The sole Federal involvement would be an Office of State Highway Arbitration and Coordination

This coordinator would act as chairman of the committee and arbitrator of disputes. The Federal duties would be limited to making certain that the States continue meet certain, mutually agreed upon safety, infrastructure, signage and accessibility standards.

The Federal office of the State Highways Coordinator would be funded by the States, based upon the total miles of formerly Federal highways in their State. The Coordinator would be appointed by a 2/3 majority of the States, and their office financed by the States.

The Coordinator would have a seat on the “board” of the also to be re-vamped Department of Transportation. The current Federal taxes levied on Gasoline and other products ‘earmarked’ for the FHA and highway maintenance would be eliminated, or delegated to the States for their highway budgets.


The States pretty much continue what they are doing with their roads and highways, the way they are doing it.

The States can afford to do more and better things with their transportation systems since they are not paying for a huge federal agency and they are also getting all additional tax revenue from fuel taxes.

The Federal Arbitrator only steps in when a State fails to meet the minimum standards, or another State complains that a State is denying free, open and equal access to travel and commerce.

State and Federal agencies already exist to handle legal disputes and levy punishments or remedies, which could be written into an “Individual Interstate and Intrastate Road and Highway Treaty.”

Only when the States-based system fails to reach an agreement on an issue, would congress get involved.


Can we agree that the Federal Government’s deep involvement in Intrastate transportation issues is an unnecessary waste of resources?

Can we agree that construction, management and maintenance of roads and highways is and should be a state and/or local responsibility?

Can we agree that the only time that the federal government, in the form of a congressional committee, should concern itself with road and highway issues is as an arbiter of interstate disputes, not a politically motivated controller of the purse strings?