Federal funding for transportation projects and programs is channeled through StanCOG as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). An essential function of the MPO is to develop a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) which is a short-range (four-year) program of transportation improvements based on the long-range transportation plan designed to achieve the area's goals, using spending, regulating, operating, management, and financial tools.
The funding for transportation plans and projects comes from a variety of sources including the federal government, state governments, special authorities but is not limited to public or private tolls, local assessment districts, local government general fund contributions (such as local property and sales taxes) and impact fees.
However, federal funding-transferred to the state and later distributed to metropolitan areas-is typically the primary funding source for major plans and projects. Federal transportation funding is made available through the Federal Highway Trust Fund and is supplemented by general funds. It is important to remember that most FHWA sources of funding are administered by the state Department of Transportation (DOT). The state DOT then allocates the money to urban and rural areas based on state and local priorities and needs. Most transit funds for urban areas are sent directly from the FTA to the transit operator. Transit funds for rural areas are administered by the state DOT.
Federal funds are made available through a specific process:
- Authorizing Legislation: Congress enacts legislation that establishes or continues the existing operation of a federal program or agency, including the amount of money it anticipates to be available to spend or grant to states, MPOs, and transit operators. Congress generally reauthorizes federal surface transportation programs over multiple years. The amount authorized, however, is not always the amount that ends up actually being available to spend.
- Appropriations: Each year, Congress decides on the federal budget for the next fiscal year. As a result of the appropriation process, the amount appropriated to a federal program is often less than the amount authorized for a given year and is the actual amount available to federal agencies to spend or grant.
- Apportionment: The distribution of program funds among states and metropolitan areas (for most transit funds) using a formula provided in law is called an apportionment. An apportionment is usually made on the first day of the federal fiscal year (October 1) for which the funds are authorized. At that time, the funds are available for obligation (spending) by a state, in accordance with an approved STIP. In many cases, the state is the designated recipient for federal transportation funds; in some cases, transit operators are the recipient.
- Determining Eligibility: Only certain projects and activities are eligible to receive federal transportation funding. Criteria depend on the funding source.
- Match: Most federal transportation programs require a non-federal match. State or local governments must contribute some portion of the project cost. This matching level is established by legislation. For many programs, the amount the state or local governments have to contribute is 20 percent of the capital cost for most highway and transit projects.
The FTIP is a financially constrained short-range (four-year) program of transportation improvements based on the long-range transportation plan designed to achieve the area's goals, using spending, regulating, operating, management, and financial tools.
Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP)
The RTIP is the resource through which major State highway projects are solicited and programmed for the Stanislaus County region.