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Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) Institute: An AASHTO Center for Excellence
Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) Institute: An AASHTO Center for Excellence

Legislation & Regulations

Federal Legislation

Overview

The Federal transportation program is the accumulation of legislative actions focusing on Federal funding, regulation, and other aspects of the nation's surface transportation systems and their administration. Legislation is updated on a periodic basis, with some updates focused on programmatic areas, some allocating funds, and others doing both. The program has evolved through successive authorization acts and other legislation which have added to, eliminated, or otherwise modified the program over time.

As new legislation is passed, Title 23 (“Highways”) of the United States Code (U.S.C.) is amended. Title 23, U.S.C. includes most of the laws that govern the Federal-Aid Highway Program (FAHP). Generally, Title 23, U.S.C. embodies those substantive provisions of highway law that Congress considers will continue and which need not be reenacted each time the FAHP is reauthorized. Each new surface transportation act specifies which sections of Title 23, U.S.C. are to be repealed, added, or amended.

As new transit acts are passed, Chapter 53 of Title 49 of the United States Code is amended. Chapter 53 of Title 49 includes most of the laws that govern the Federal Transit Program.

The term "program" is used as an umbrella term referring to activities administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) or the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Each program has its own specific and separate funding, described in law, and each is considered a program, with eligible activities for which that funding may be used.

An Authorization Act is the basic substantive legislation that establishes or continues Federal programs or agencies and establishes the upper limit on the amount of funds for the various programs for either a fixed or an indefinite period of time. The financing cycle for the Federal-aid transportation programs begins when Congress develops and enacts a surface transportation authorization. Actual permission to spend the authorized amounts are dependent on annual appropriation acts.

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