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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - March/April 2004

Guest Editorial

Effective Stewardship of the Federal-Aid Highway Program Through Federal/State Partnerships

Each year the U.S. Congress entrusts the transportation community with more than $30 billion in Federal-aid highway funds that are apportioned and allocated to State departments of transportation (DOTs) for highway transportation needs. Conscientious stewardship of these resources is a challenging and vital responsibility.

peters njord

Stewardship can be thought of as managing another person's property or investment, implying trust and confidence, accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, and quality. To be effective stewards of the public's money, a strong partnership between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and State DOTs must be sustained to ensure that our ultimate customers, the public, receive a good return on their investment. The American public must feel confident that a dollar given to the transportation team is a dollar "best" investedÑnot through a publicity campaign, but by results they can see, such as reduced traffic congestion, fewer lives lost on U.S. highways, seamless delivery of goods across the Nation, improved livability, and greater environmental protection.

FHWA, State DOTs, and local agencies form the core partnership that supplies the product delivery to our mutual customers. As civic agencies, we cannot do it alone or independently. We must put together a highway program delivery team that successfully uses the best of both public and private communities. The public must have complete trust and confidence that the team can be counted on to deliver quality solutions that meet U.S. transportation needs, efficiently and effectively.

Building and managing our highway team requires a strong partnership and multiple agency coordination, cooperation, and communication. FHWA's responsibility is to provide leadership in moving our Nation's transportation systems toward outcomes that reflect the national interest. In addition, FHWA supports and nurtures State and local efforts toward implementing the highest level of excellence by developing and sharing best practices. State DOTs in turn need to help achieve the needs of the Nation as a whole, in addition to their own unique State needs. Each team member has a role and responsibility to fulfill, and we are challenged to understand and accept these specific roles while integrating them into a cohesive team effort that leads to building and maintaining a successful surface transportation system. As members of a "broader" transportation team, our individual success is directly linked to the success of the team. Our mutual customers deserve quality products from our efforts and need to trust that we will provide that quality.

Our challenge for the future is to continue to work together, proactively, because we are all accountable to our customers. A large part of our endeavors will involve reducing congestion on our roadways, making travel safer, advancing context-sensitive solutions, and enhancing project oversight and management, particularly on projects approaching or exceeding $1 billion, or "megaprojects." These practices include promoting innovative contract and design techniques to "get in, get out, and stay out," developing sound financial management systems, designing our facilities in an environmentally context-sensitive fashion, advancing asset management and congestion management systems, and tapping new technology such as intelligent transportation systems and advanced motorist information systems including 511 systems. Although we possess many tools, talents, and skills, we also must expect that we will develop new approaches to doing business and a new skill set as we move toward the increasingly complex transportation future ahead.

At the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, we are committed to improving our efforts and finding opportunities to enhance our working partnership to ensure the delivery of the best transportation system in the world to our customers.

In subsequent issues of Public Roads, successful Federal-State partnership case studies will be showcased in a series of articles.Mary E. Peters Federal Highway Administrator

John Njord

President, AASHTO

Executive Director, Utah DOT