AASHTOWare Project Receives FHWA Approval to Use SP&R Funding

August 30, 2019

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently received a waiver letter from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)allowing state departments of transportation to use State Planning and Research, or SP&R funding, for the implementation of AASHTOWare Project Construction and Materials – a comprehensive, web-based module designed to support the complete construction and materials management process. But what is SP&R funding and how can interested states use this funding option to assist with the implementation costs associated with AASHTOWare Project Construction and Materials? The AASHTO Journal sat down with Keith Platte, AASHTOWare’s associate project director, for some insight.

Q: First, describe what SP&R funding is and how state DOTs typically use it.

A: This is a bit complicated, but I will try to break it down as simply as I can. SP&R funding is a dedicated pot of money allocated based on a state’s federal program that supports statewide planning and research activities for state DOTs. It comes from a two percent set-aside from agency apportionments in support of four specific programs: The National Highway Performance Program or NHPP; the Surface Transportation Program or STP; the Highway Safety Improvement Program or HSIP; and the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Improvement Program or CMAQ program. This funding is further broken down into Subpart A and B.  Subpart A covers funding for planning and research activities by the state. Subpart B address the adaption of findings to practical applications by developing new technologies and the subsequent transfer of those technologies, including the process of dissemination, demonstration, training, and adoption of innovations by users.

[For more information, visit Title 23, U.S. Code, Section 505, and Title 23, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 420.]

Q: So, what does the FHWA’s “waiver letter” allow state DOTs to do with those funds in regards to AASHTOWare Project Construction and Materials? What can they purchase using those SP&R funds?

A: The waiver letter provided by FHWA allows states the option to use these funds without providing a state match. Generally, there is a certain percentage that states must provide to use federal funds. This waiver essentially allows states to use 100 percent of those federal funds to purchase services to assist agencies with the implementation activities for AASHTOWare Project Construction and Materials.

Q: How can AASHTOWare Project Construction and Materials helps state DOTs save on costs over time? What is the potential return on investment or ROI from using SP&R funds in this manner?

A: AASHTO Project Construction and Materials is one of five web-based modules in the AASHTOWare Project software. With this module, states can digitally manage their construction and materials inspection process for their entire construction program – via a laptop computer or mobile application. As for the potential return on investment, every agency that takes advantage of utilizing the SP&R funds will have a different return due to the fact that each agency will be leveraging the tool based on their specific wants and needs in relation to the size of their state’s construction program. Due to all of those variables, there is no one potential ROI. With that being said, this software will lead to a more productive staff, much cleaner data, and achievement of e-construction goals many agencies have set.

—Kevin Fox, AASHTOWare Project Task Force Chair and Keith Platte, Assistant Director for AASHTOWare Project