USDOT Surface Transportation Block Grant Program
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG) is the most flexible of all Federal-aid highway programs, allowing wide discretion for recipients to use funds as needed to meet state and local transportation priorities. This includes any activities relating to construction of highways or other eligible facilities (including acquisition of right-of-way) as consistent with state and metropolitan long-range transportation plans. Activities and projects designed to improve climate resilience of transportation facilities, infrastructure, and systems, as well as related planning and vulnerability assessment activities, are eligible uses for STBG funding.
Each year, STBG funding is provided to states as a lump sum, with the total amount determined by a calculation as provided for in law. States divide up their STBG funding among apportioned programs, including:
- The Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program,
- Two percent for State Planning and Research, and
- Funding for "Off-system" (not on Federal-aid highway) bridges.
A specified percentage (54% in FY2020) of a state's total funding after accounting for Transportation Alternatives set-asides must be suballocated to three categories of areas based on population size, in proportion to their relative shares of the state's population, including urbanized areas over 200,000 in population, areas between 5,000 and 200,000 in population, and areas with fewer than 5,000 people.
Projects eligible for STBG funding are outlined in 23 U.S.C. § 133, and include various construction activities, operational improvements, recreational trails, asset management planning, and many other activities. The Federal Highway Administration has clarified that Federal-aid programs, including STBG, may be used for various climate change adaptation activities relating to eligible highways and facilities, such as vulnerability assessments, consideration of climate change in project development and construction, and evaluation of climate change impacts as part of lifecycle cost assessments and asset management planning, among other uses.1
While STBG funding is generally flexible, there are some limitations. For example, STBG-funded projects in general cannot be on local roads or rural minor collectors, except that states can use up to 15% of their rural suballocation on minor collector roads, and STBG-funded projects may otherwise occur on local roads or rural minor collectors if they relate to bridges and tunnels, safety, fringe and corridor parking facilities/programs, recreational trails, pedestrian and bicycle projects, or fit within several other exception categories.
The STBG program is one of five core Federal-aid highway formula grant programs; the other programs include the National Highway Performance Program, the Highway Safety Improvement Program, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, and the National Highway Freight Program. States can transfer up to 50% of their apportioned funding under any of these programs to other Federal-aid programs, although in the case of STBG, funds suballocated based on population categories cannot be transferred to other core Federal-aid programs.
- Funding program
1. U.S. Dep't of Transp., Fed. Highway Admin., Eligibility of Activities To Adapt To Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events Under the Federal-Aid and Federal Lands Highway Program, Sept. 24, 2012.