The Federal Urban Highway Program
CITY STREETS and roads carry half of all the nation's traffic—both rural and urban—in terms of vehicle miles. Yet these same city street systems only make up about ten percent of the 3,400,000 miles of highways in the United States.
These figures become even more impressive when one considers that a few cars, buses and trucks traveling long distances over rural highways can log a large number of vehicle miles in a relatively short time. This large amount of urban vehicle mileage is generated in cities by many persons driving short distances on frequent trips. Major city streets are constantly busy throughout the day and in the morning and evening peak hours they are jam-packed. More people, more cars and fewer riders of mass transit all add up to severe traffic congestion. Quite obviously we can't get away from the basic fact that traffic is where people are.
Slowly but surely the federal government and the states have come to recognize that they too must accept certain responsibilities for developing an urban highway system, and that a workable system of inter-and intra-state highways must include urban and rural portions alike. The Bureau of Public Roads' increasing emphasis on urban highway development is evidenced by its creation of offices of urban highway planning and urban design. A number of states such as Kansas, Missouri, and Virginia have formed urban divisions in their highway departments.
For some thirty years following the commencement of the federal-aid highway program in 1916, the primary objective was the improvement of rural roads. As a matter of tact, initially there was a prohibition against the use of federal funds in cities having more than 2,500 population. A small beginning in the provision of federal money tor cities took place with the enactment of the Hayden-Cartwright Act of 1934 and the Defense Highway. Act of 1941, which authorized surveys and plans, including advance engineering, for the development of the strategic network of highways and of bypasses around and extensions into and through cities.
Urban Highway Landmarks
The first major breakthrough came, however, with the Federal-aid Highway Act of 1944, bringing municipalities into the federal-state cooperative program on a nationwide scale and authorizing the first specific funds for urban highways. This resulted from the efforts of the American Municipal Association and its constituent state leagues of municipalities. And it was not until the 1944 act that provision was made for the selection of a federal-aid secondary system to which federal aid was restricted, superseding the periodic farm-to-market road expenditures of previous years. It also directed the Bureau of Public Roads and the states to designate a National System of Interstate Highways not to exceed 40,000 miles (raised to 41,000 miles by the 1956 Act). Of foremost importance to the cities was the creation of the formula for the distribution of federal-aid funds among the primary, secondary and urban systems which is still used today.
The second major breakthrough from the municipal viewpoint In federal highway legislation, also sponsored by, the American Municipal Association, was the Federal-aid Highway Act of 1956, which set in motion the largest public works program ever undertaken by any nation. Through it Congress expressed its intent to complete the "National System of Interstate and Defense Highways" simultaneously In all states in approximately thirteen years. It is estimated that $41 billion will be spent'on the "Interstate System" under this program, with the federal government paying the lion's share—90% federal and 10% state.
Approximately one-half of the Interstate money will be spent in urban areas. The Interstate System will connect 90% of the cities having more than 50,000 people. Comprising only 1.2% of the total mileage of roads and streets in the nation, it is expected to carry eventually 20% of all traffic. Because of the tremendous impact the construction of the Interstate System is going to have on urban patterns of growth, there exists a vital need tor fitting highway plans into general, comprehensive plans of cities.
The Three Federal-aid Systems
Consequently, we have today, three federal-aid systems:
1. The Federal-Aid Primary Highway System consists of a system of connected main highways, selected by each state highway department subject to the approval of the Bureau of Public Roads. It encompasses routes of the Interstate System and other important routes serving essentially through traffic with their urban extensions, including important loops, belt highways, and spurs.
2. The Federal-Aid Secondary Highway System is composed of the principal secondary and feeder routes including farm-to-market roads, rural mail and public school bus routes, local rural roads, county and township roads, roads of the county, road class, and their urban extensions. These roads are chosen by the state highway departments and appropriate local road officials cooperatively, subject to approval by the Bureau of Public Roads.
3. The Interstate System of highways consists of routes of the highest importance to the nation. As mentioned earlier, it is limited to 41,000 miles of highways connecting the principal metropolitan areas, cities, and industrial centers. Included are Important routes into, through, and around urban areas. It is a part of the Federal-aid Primary System and, like the other two systems, is selected by the state highway departments subject to Bureau approval.
The "ABC" Systems Apportionment and Expenditure Formulas
Primary and secondary roads and urban extensions thereof are frequently referred to as the "ABC" systems. All "ABC" funds must be matched by the states on a 50-50 basis.
State apportionments for the primary and secondary systems are based on a formula giving equal importance to area, population (rural population rather than total population is used tor secondary roads), and mileage of rural mail delivery, and star routes. Each state is compared to the total of these factors in alt states. The urban extension (urban parts of the primary and secondary systems) funds are divided among the states per the population of municipalities and other urban places of 5,000 or more people as related to the total such population of all states.
The "ABC" funds distributed to the states must be expended as follows:
(A) 45% for projects on the Federal-aid Primary Highway System.
(B) 30% for projects on the Federal-aid Secondary Highway System.
(C) 25% for projects on extensions of these systems within urban areas.
Primary funds can be spent on either rural or urban segments of the FAP system without regard to the 25% set aside for urban extensions of the system. In other words, theoretically,
October 1958 / Illinois Municipal Review / Page 227
a state court spend its entire 45% allotment of primary funds in urban areas in addition to the 25% allotment for urban extensions. This is not true, however, for secondary funds which can only be applied to-rural portions of the FAS system. The one exception to this general rule about FAS funds is in states where the population density is over 200 per square mile. Accordingly, secondary funds can be expended in urban areas in the states of Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The urban area money must be used for the construction of "urban extensions" of both the primary and secondary systems.
What is an urban area? According to the Bureau of Public Roads' definition, it is an area including and adjacent to a municipality or other urban place having a population of 5,000 or more in accordance with the latest decennial or special federal census. The boundaries of urban areas are determined by the state highway departments and approved by the Bureau.
Unincorporated communities as well as cities are eligible for this designation. In these unincorporated places the boundaries will in all probability be approximately the enumeration area designated by the Bureau of the Census. A Bureau of Public Roads policy regulation states that adjacent urban area characteristics include these features: residential, commercial or industrial developments; streets and highways with sidewalks and curbs; street lighting; sanitary and storm drainage facilities; and is generally served by transit service and has police and fire protection. But all of these features are not required.
There are two classes of urban extensions—primary or secondary. Urban extensions of the primary system proceed into or through approved urban areas and include loops, belt highways, and important spurs. To be classed as an urban extension, secondary system roads must lie within the boundaries of an approved urban area and must pass all the way through or connect with another primary or secondary route within the urban area. Secondary extensions may, however, go beyond the first intersecting federal-aid route it a significant portion of the traffic entering the area on the secondary route continues in the same direction. Stub secondary extensions are not allowed in urban areas.
Federal-aid Urban Highway System
Although it is generally believed that there is a federal-aid urban highway system, this is not the cage. Following the 1944 Act, the Bureau of Public Roads did interpret language therein as authorizing such a system in urban areas. So until February of 1955 the Bureau had designated a federal-aid urban system to be distinguished from the federal-aid highway system outside of urban areas termed the Federal-aid Primary System. The new system supposedly included all routes essential to the formation of a system of major arterial highways—both radial and circumferential.
An important policy in the administration of this system was that projects could be financed either with primary or urban system money. Because of the language changes in the 1952 and 1954 Acts, the Bureau decided that there was no authorization for a separate urban highway system and returned to the urban extension philosophy discussed above.
The Highway Act of 1958
The funds authorized tor 1960 and 1961 tor the primary, secondary, and
October 1958 / Illinois Municipal Review / Page 228
urban systems are, respectively, $25 million and $50 million a year higher than for 1959. It is the expressed intent of Congress to increase the authorization for these systems by $25 million each year through 1969.
The "ABC" system authorizations for the next three years are as follows:
However, funds tor 1959 turned out to be higher because of a supplemental, special, anti-recession appropriation of $400 million on a two-thirds federal and one-third state matching basis to finance "ABC" projects that can be put under contract by December 1, 1958, for completion within one year. The regular "ABC" funds are on the usual 50-50 matching basis.
The one real controversial provision that was passed in 1958 was the incentive payment to states that regulate outdoor advertising along the right-of-way of the Interstate System, amounting to one-half percent of the federal share of the cost of the project. Those portions of the Interstate System passing through municipalities are excluded from this provision on billboard control.
The authorizations in the 1958 Act for the Interstate System are:
Municipal officials are alert to the fact that these large expenditures will have a terrific impact on their local economies. They also know that here is a chance of a lifetime for cities to give their future growth a shape that will stimulate the betterment of every phase of community life for many generations ahead. But this will require some intelligent planning — Immediately.
Planning for Highways—One and One-half Percent Funds
The Bureau of Public Roads works directly with the state highway departments in carrying out the federal highway program. Local governments are expected to deal with their own state highway departments in all matters concerning federal-aid for highways. This is also true for the so-called "one and one-half percent" highway, planning program of the Bureau.
Meeting the transportation problems of cities, particularly in this era of accelerated highway construction, requires a level and quality of planning that goes well beyond what many communities have been able to do in the past. The tremendous interstate program and the stepped-up "ABC" program offer splendid opportunities to produce better cities. Many cities will find it to their advantage to develop cooperative agreements with state highway departments for the establishment of continuing urban highway planning programs, as well as single purpose projects, utilizing these one and one-half percent planning funds. Experience has shown these cooperative projects to be of mutual benefit to state and city officials.
The National Committee on Urban Transportation through its guide, Better Transportation For Your City*, describes this program as follows:
"Under the various Federal-Aid Highway Acts, notably, the 1956 Act, up to 1 1/2 percent of the federal funds apportioned to the states are available tor engineering and planning purposes.
"Customarily the total amount of the 1 1/2 percent funds, or such portion thereof as may be used for the purpose, is complemented by state funds, or by state and local funds.
"Federal funds allocated to states for engineering and economic investigations are intended for state-wide use and may be applied in both urban and rural areas. Use of these funds in particular political subdivisions is at the option of the respective State Highway Departments, upon approval of specific studies by the Bureau of Public Roads.
"Before a city attempts to undertake these studies, it is recommended that the Program Director contact the State Highway Engineer and present the proposed study program. Upon review, the State Highway Engineer will be in a position to advise local officials as to relevant policy followed by the State Highway Department and the funds available for the proposed studies. He may also make suggestions and through his staff offer such technical assistance as the department can extend."
State highway departments have made well over 100 local traffic studies in communities of varying sizes with one and one-half percent funds. If you want to get the facts about such things as street use, origin-destination and land use, existing traffic service, present and future deficiencies, and related subjects, this may be your answer. An example of one of these studies is provided by the Metropolitan Tulsa Expressways plan which evolved from the Cooperative Expressway. Planning Program undertaken by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and the City and County with the Oklahoma State Department of Highways and the Bureau of Public Roads.
The State of ____________________ received $____________ for the fiscal year 1959 * under the one and one-half percent program. Contact your appropriate state highway official now to express your interest in a joint planning project.
Other Federal Planning Funds
Another source of financial help to cities under 25,000 population and to regional and metropolitan planning agencies is the Urban Planning Assistance Program of the Housing and Home Finance Agency under Section 701 of the 1954 Federal Housing Act. Grants to cities under 25,000 must go through an official state agency, whereas regional and metropolitan planning groups can receive grants directly from the Urban Renewal Administration of HHFA. All grants are on a 50-50 matching basis.
The American Municipal Association sponsored legislation introduced at the last session of the 85th Congress which would have substantially enlarged the Urban Planning Assistance Program and would have made funds available directly to municipalities in those states not having a state planning agency and to cities with a population of 50,000 or less. While this legislation did not pass, it is expected that a similar bill will he introduced in Congress next year.
Congress did approve $3.25 million for fiscal year 1959 for the Urban Planning Assistance Program, but because of the large backlog of applications, these grant funds may be ex-
• Available from Public Administration Service, 1313 East 60th Street, Chicago 37, Illinois, at $5.00 each.
October 1958 / Illinois Municipal Review / Page 229
hausted well before the end of the year.
Advances in the form of interest-free loans for preliminary and final public works planning, including streets and highways, are available under Section 702 of the same Act. When construction begins or contracts are awarded, the loans are to be repaid. The advance planning program is financed through a $100 million revolving fund set up in 1955. Advances will not be made unless construction is scheduled to start within a reasonable period of time. The Community Facilities Administration of HHFA handles this program.
The Cities of Tomorrow
Late in 1956 the Joint Committee on Highways of the American Municipal Association and the American Association of State Highway Officials was formed "to promote to the highest degree a spirit of cooperation between municipalities and the state highway departments in working together to find practical solutions to the critical traffic and highway problems in urban areas." The job ahead can be done only by state and municipal officials working together as a team.
Cities that take advantage of one or more of the planning programs mentioned above will by that very act insure much greater cooperation of their state highway department.
These and other cities whose plans are ready will be the outstanding cities of tomorrow.
* See attached tabulation.
October 1958 / Illinois Municipal Review / Page 230
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