The Federal Highway Policy is an Act of the United States Congress that aims at providing guidance on the construction of the nationwide network of highways. The policy has undergone several amendments since its inception in 1916. It gives mandate to the Highway Committee to make recommendations on strategies and actions on all matters concerning highways, bridges, interstate connectivity, weight and size of user vehicles, and any other relevant highway technologies (Weingroff, 2011). The committee also devises the highway fees and toll taxes in all national highways as well as administers the funding programs to the states; this helps in the construction process and enables efficient traffic operations of highways.
The Federal Highway Policy history dates back to the passing of the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, which set aside funds for a five-year period for states to construct and improve the existing highways. With the expiry of the mandate of this Act, a new one was enacted in 1921 with a similar mandate, but with more funding. In addition to the original mandate, the 1921 Act sought to administer a coherent highway network between the states under the national road grid plan (Schwantes, 2003). New highway constructions would meet national defense strategy and correspond to the economic purpose. The construction of highways and advancement of economic status of the United States brought an increase in the number of vehicles using the roads over the years. Federal Highway Policy has maintained some of its original mandates and incorporated the new ones. The Act has contributed to the ideals of federalism by mandating funding and administration of highway construction and maintenance between the Federal States and individual states.
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The Highway Policy has its strong and weak administrative and implementation points. The policy has been too complicated in defining the mandate of the Federal and State government responsibilities. The largest proportion of the funds to finance the implementation of the policy is derived from the gas taxes. The volatility of the gasoline prices adversely affects the funding for the maintenance and construction of highways. The State governments can also not implement individual Federal highway policies without invoking the provisions of the federal highway policy (McNichol, 2006). The policy has its strong administrative and implementation effectiveness. In financing the construction and maintenance of the highways, 70 percent of the finances are sourced from user fees in the form of gasoline taxes. This has provided an effective and equitable tax regime.
The United States federalism depends on the relation between the Federal and State governments. Initially, the State and the Federal governments were two distinct entities with different powers for the common good of people. The Federal government has more express powers bestowed on it by the Constitution. These powers include levying taxes, declaring wars, and regulating interstate and foreign commerce (Weingroff, 2011). The state governments, on the other hand, exercise reserved powers, which should be consistent with the Constitution. The Federal Highway Policy was enacted by an Act of Congress to oversee the construction and administration of the federal highways. The policy gave the State governments the mandate to formulate laws and levy taxes as stipulated by the policy (Petroski, 2006). For example, the state governments charge taxes within their administrative jurisdiction as stipulated by the policy and submit the funds to the Federal government for allocation purposes. The policy is consistent with the constitutional framework of federalism of the United State of America.
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