Issues on local authority raise debate

In April 2013, then-APWA President Elizabeth Treadway told the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit that “MAP-21’s successor needs to build on progress to accelerate project delivery with a focus on providing a level of oversight that is locally administered and consistent with the scope of the project.

Critics say federal officials are more concerned about local agencies doing something administratively wrong rather than completing a worthy project.

“Are you about delivering the projects or justifying the projects?” asks Hale, who would like to see paperwork requirements reduced in the next bill. “There’s a little too much on justifying the project. I feel like we’re still paying for the bridge to nowhere,” referencing the ill-fated Alaska bridge that became a symbol for fiscal irresponsibility.

The GAO’s report acknowledges that local officials face significant time, effort, and cost challenges when administering federal aid projects, but concludes that they feel the benefits outweigh the burdens of complying with federal requirements.

“Some projects are worth the additional complexities; some aren’t,” says John Davis. “Some projects would never get built without federal funding to augment available local funding.”

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