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Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century

TEA-21 - Plus Law 105-178

On June 9, 1998, the President signed into law PL 105-178, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorizing highway, highway safety, transit and other surface transportation programs for the next 6 years. Subsequent technical corrections in the TEA 21 Restoration Act have been incorporated; thus, the material presented here reflects the combined effects of both Acts and the two are jointly referred to as TEA-21.


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TEA-21 builds on the initiatives established in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), which was the last major authorizing legislation for surface transportation. This new Act combines the continuation and improvement of current programs with new initiatives to meet the challenges of improving safety as traffic continues to increase at record levels, protecting and enhancing communities and the natural environment as we provide transportation, and advancing America’s economic growth and competitiveness domestically and internationally through efficient and flexible transportation.

Significant features of TEA-21 include:

  • Assurance of a guaranteed level of Federal funds for surface transportation through FY 2003. The annual floor for highway funding is keyed to receipts of the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Transit funding is guaranteed at a selected fixed amount. All highway user taxes are extended at the same rates when the legislation was enacted.
  • Extension of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) program, providing a flexible national 10 percent goal for the participation of disadvantaged business enterprises, including small firms owned and controlled by women and minorities, in highway and transit contracting undertaken with Federal funding.
  • Strengthening of safety programs across the Department of Transportation (DOT). New incentive programs, with great potential for savings to life and property, are aimed at increasing the use of safety belts and promoting the enactment and enforcement of 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration standards for drunk driving. These new incentive funds also offer added flexibility to States since the grants can be used for any Title 23 U.S.C. activity.
  • CInvesting in research and its application to maximize the performance of the transportation system. Special emphasis is placed on deployment of Intelligent Transportation Systems to help improve operations and management of transportation systems and vehicle safety.

Full text of TEA-21

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