Detailed Information on the
Highway Emergency Relief Program Assessment

Program Code 10004002
Program Title Highway Emergency Relief Program
Department Name Department of Transportation
Agency/Bureau Name Department of Transportation
Program Type(s) Block/Formula Grant
Assessment Year 2005
Assessment Rating Moderately Effective
Assessment Section Scores
Section Score
Program Purpose & Design 100%
Strategic Planning 75%
Program Management 89%
Program Results/Accountability 50%
Program Funding Level
(in millions)
FY2007 $971
FY2008 $295
FY2009 $100

Ongoing Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments

Completed Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments

Incorporate Emergency Relief (ER) into FHWA's Financial Integrity Review and Evaluation (FIRE) process

Completed Emergency Relief will be included in FHWA's Financial Integrity Review and Evaluation procedures. Projects to be reviewed will be determined by an independent accounting team.

Establish in-house guidance and criteria that will focus on project approval performance.

Completed FHWA has formalized the Emergency Relief PART measures and incorporated the metrics in the disaster acknowledgement letter that designates Emergency Relief events. The letter will be sent to both the Division and State office whenever an event occurs.

Establish in-house guidance and criteria to ensure all FHWA Division Offices approve projects according to the same standards.

Completed An internal employee team was created earlier this year to conduct a program review, which was completed in the Spring of 2008. The report includes lessons learned from previous disasters and a set of review recommendations that will result in additional updates to the ER manual to improve standardization of project management in each Division office.

Program Performance Measures

Term Type  
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Percent of reviews of the State or FLMA project plans that take less than 180 days

Explanation:The percent FHWA's review, negotiations, and project approval takes less than 180 days.

Year Target Actual
2000 Baseline 80
2001 80 86
2002 80 81
2003 80 97
2004 80 80
2005 80 50
2006 80 83
2007 80 74
2008 80
2009 80
2010 80
2011 80
2012 80
Annual Output

Measure: Number of days for FHWA to release Emergency Relief funds to the State's once the funds are made available.

Explanation:Annual Average

Year Target Actual
2000 Baseline 75
2001 90 81
2002 90 100
2003 90 43
2004 90 182
2005 90 180
2006 90 104
2007 90 105
2008 90
2009 90
2010 90
2011 90
2012 90
Long-term Outcome

Measure: Size of funding backlog in millions of dollars

Explanation:Annual program funding and supplemental appropriations are intended to keep the backlog at a manageable level.

Year Target Actual
2001 0 513
2002 0 299
2003 0 649
2004 0 1969
2005 0 124
2006 0 42
2007 0 63
2008 0
2009 0
2010 0
2011 0
2012 0
Long-term Outcome

Measure: Percentage of projects closed out within 4 years of the disaster

Explanation:State DOT's and Federal Land management agencies should close out projects within 4 years of the date of the disaster.

Year Target Actual
2000 Baseline 87
2001 75 90
2002 75 68
2003 75 68
2004 75 81
2005 75 65
2006 75 40
2007 75 64
2008 75
2009 75
2010 75
2011 75
2012 75

Questions/Answers (Detailed Assessment)

Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design
Number Question Answer Score

Is the program purpose clear?

Explanation: The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Emergency Relief (ER) Program provides financial assistance to States to repair or reconstruct national highways that are damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic failures from an external cause. This funding speeds the restoration of major highways following a disaster. Only highways that are normally eligible for under FHWA's Federal Aid Highway Program are eligible for assistance from the FHWA ER program. While ER funds repairs to "Federal Aid" eligible highways, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) addresses all other disaster-damaged roads and public infrastructure.

Evidence: See: ER authorization 23 USC 125; Emergency Relief Manual, www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/erm/index.htm

YES 20%

Does the program address a specific and existing problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: Nationwide, highways are regularly damaged by natural disasters and other unforeseen events like major traffic accidents. However, individual states are typically not prepared financially to cope with these events. ER provides funding in addition to states' regular Federal highway formula grants to pay for recovery costs. There is no limit on the amount a state may receive from the program, though states must match their Federal ER recovery grants, which usually cover 80 percent of project costs. In addition funding recovery expenses, ER funds emergency repair work to restore essential traffic, minimize the extent of damage, and protect the remaining facilities. This program component is 100 percent federally funded.

Evidence: See: Emergency Relief Manual Guidance 23 CFR 668 WHAT SECTION IS THIS??? ; FHWA press release on ER grant awards, www.dot.gov/affairs/dot4105.htm.

YES 20%

Is the program designed so that it is not redundant or duplicative of any other Federal, state, local or private effort?

Explanation: ER is only available for Federal Aid eligible highways and roads on Federal Lands (for example, National Park roads). ER's regulations state that "ER funds shall not duplicate assistance under another Federal program or compensation from insurance or any other source. Any compensation for damages or insurance proceeds including interest recovered by the State or political subdivision or by a toll authority for repair of the highway facility must be used upon receipt to reduce ER fund liability on the project."

Evidence: See: ER Regulations, www.washingtonwatchdog.org/documents/cfr/title23/part668.html; 1997 IG Review of the Program, www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/r0fh7009.pdf

YES 20%

Is the program design free of major flaws that would limit the program's effectiveness or efficiency?

Explanation: The program ensures that states may quickly repair damaged highways by allowing them to use their annual federal highway grants to fund emergency repairs. These costs are later reimbursed with ER program funds (by law, FHWA may $100 million annually to states). However, one issue is that there are typically several hundred million dollars in ER eligible projects at a given time nationwide. The mismatch between availability of program resources and eligible projects has created funding backlogs in the past. Because states are reimbursed over time as ER funds become available, some regularly scheduled Federal-Aid projects have been stalled pending the receipt of ER grants.

Evidence: See: Emergency Relief Manual, www.fhwa.dot.gov/reports/erm/index.htm

YES 20%

Is the program design effectively targeted so that resources will address the program's purpose directly and will reach intended beneficiaries?

Explanation: DOT authorizes ER funds for individual projects based on requests from state transportation agencies and Federal land management agencies (FLMA). Before releasing funds, FHWA works with state officials to conduct assessments of damaged highways. At the beginning of each fiscal year, FHWA allocates $100 million among states and FLMAs according to their share of costs eligible for reimbursement.

Evidence: FHWA's responsibilities are listed in the legal code for the ER program, 23 CFR 668, www.washingtonwatchdog.org/documents/cfr/title23/part668.html

YES 20%
Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design Score 100%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning
Number Question Answer Score

Does the program have a limited number of specific long-term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?

Explanation: The ER program strives to provide funding to states as quickly as possible following a disaster. This is reflected in FHWA's rate for closing out a project within four years of a disaster. Closing out a project means the facility is fully built and that the state has been completely reimbursed. The program also tracks the size of the funding backlog owed to states. This long-term output measure is meaningful because it indicates the extent that states' highway programs are disrupted by disasters. Without the ER reimbursement, states would need to divert their regular Federal highway funds from previously planned highway projects, potentially delaying completion of a project for several years. Putting these projects on hold can affect the condition and performance of states' highway systems.

Evidence: See: FHWA's Strategic Plan, www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/olsp/strategicplans.htm; DOT budget and performance documents, www.dot.gov/PerfPlan2004/mobility.html

YES 12%

Does the program have ambitious targets and timeframes for its long-term measures?

Explanation: While typical highway projects are open on average nine years, FHWA attempts to close the majority of ER projects within four years. Also, starting in 2006, the program's goal is to maintain the funding backlog at $100 million per year.

Evidence: The latest highway reauthorization law, SAFETEA-LU, authorizes Congress to appropriate such sums as necessary if $100 million is insufficient to address program needs.

YES 12%

Does the program have a limited number of specific annual performance measures that can demonstrate progress toward achieving the program's long-term goals?

Explanation: ER's annual performance measures reflect FHWA's timeliness in meeting program oversight and stewardship requirements. Specifically, FHWA attempts to review and approve state project plans in 180 days or less, and once funds are approved, to release funds to states within 90 days.

Evidence: See: FHWA and DOT 2006 Annual Performance Plans, www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/olsp/strategicplans.html; www.dot.gov/PerfPlan2004/index.html

YES 12%

Does the program have baselines and ambitious targets for its annual measures?

Explanation: Though the targets for the annual measures appear drawn out, they reflect the time required by FHWA to investigate state requests for reimbursement. This time is needed given the large amount of planning and coordination involved.

Evidence: See: FHWA Annual Performance Plan 2006, www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/olsp/strategicplans.html ; www.dot.gov/PerfPlan2004/index.html

YES 12%

Do all partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) commit to and work toward the annual and/or long-term goals of the program?

Explanation: FHWA's partners are the states and FLMAs. The ER program manual outlines several ways states and FLMAs work together, and FHWA division offices regularly meet with states to align FHWA goals with state transportation initiatives. Further, states and FHWA record their responsibilities in written stewardship agreements, which describe their roles in conducting damage assessments, performing cost estimates, and transferring funds. For federal lands projects, FHWA has formed Rapid Response ER teams that ensure that trained response teams (consisting of both FHWA and partner federal agencies) are prepared to respond to disasters.

Evidence: See: State DOT and FHWA Division office Stewardship Plans; FHWA Memorandums Of Understanding with partner Federal Land Management Agencies.

YES 12%

Are independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality conducted on a regular basis or as needed to support program improvements and evaluate effectiveness and relevance to the problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: The program does not have regularly scheduled reviews. The last comprehensive review was conducted in 1997, when the DOT Inspector General (IG) conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the ER program. As a result, FHWA updated its ER Manual to clarify project eligibility criteria. In 1998, the IG validated improvements and reported on FHWA's accomplishments. Other reviews include several GAO reviews of specific projects and Federal disaster response and recovery policies in general.

Evidence: See: 1997 DOT IG study, www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/r0fh7009.pdf . Also see various GAO reports that touch on the ER program: archive.gao.gov/papr2pdf/157068.pdf www.gao.gov/archive/1996/rc96136.pdf www.gao.gov/archive/1997/rc97162.pdf www.gao.gov/new.items/d021067t.pdf www.gao.gov/archive/1999/ai99250.pdf www.gao.gov/new.items/d0472.pdf

NO 0%

Are Budget requests explicitly tied to accomplishment of the annual and long-term performance goals, and are the resource needs presented in a complete and transparent manner in the program's budget?

Explanation: Because it has a mandatory authorization, ER receives $100 million annually regardless of its programmatic requirements. For 2006 and beyond, the Administration requested that the amount be increased $250 million. The budget stated that not providing this amount, "would adversely impact FHWA's ability to supplement resources provided to states impacted by natural disasters." However, no other discussion was provided regarding ER's programmatic goals or the practical significance of providing this level.

Evidence: See: FHWA FY 2005 and 2006 President's Budget Request.

NO 0%

Has the program taken meaningful steps to correct its strategic planning deficiencies?

Explanation: A DOT IG audit conducted in 1997 reported that in some instances FHWA Division Office managers were not familiar with the most current regulations and that state implementation of the program needed more scrutiny. The report made three major recommendations:1) FHWA should update their existing ER guidance documents with current Federal Regulations, 2) FHWA headquarter staff should monitor field adherence to existing regulations, and 3) field staff should more closely monitor ER projects. In response, FHWA updated ER manuals to clarify eligibility criteria, regularly conducted ER training for their field staff, and developed procedures for recording the timeliness of project completion and adherence to ER regulations.

Evidence: See IG Evaluations of the ER program: www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/r0fh7009.pdf; www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/tr1998191.pdf

YES 12%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning Score 75%
Section 3 - Program Management
Number Question Answer Score

Does the agency regularly collect timely and credible performance information, including information from key program partners, and use it to manage the program and improve performance?

Explanation: FHWA division offices record statistical and financial information on the performance of the ER program, including the annual reimbursement backlog, the time to approve projects, and the timeliness of processing funding transfers. FHWA also tracks the timeliness of correspondence between FHWA and its partners. FHWA uses this data to improve the performance of its Rapid Response Teams in making damage assessments and approving projects.

Evidence: FHWA maintains data in its Financial Management Information System (FMIS), which is FHWA's grants management system. ER projects have their own specific coding within the FMIS database.

YES 11%

Are Federal managers and program partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) held accountable for cost, schedule and performance results?

Explanation: FHWA holds its ER Federal managers accountable for program specific requirements, schedule, and general performance of the program. These indicators affect the performance ratings of program managers.

Evidence: During the past year, a manager was relieved of his responsibilities for not achieving program response rates and following performance requirements.

YES 11%

Are funds (Federal and partners') obligated in a timely manner and spent for the intended purpose?

Explanation: FHWA obligates ER funds rapidly to the states and Federal Land Management Agencies. To ensure states can quickly access funds, ER guidelines allow states to divert their formula Federal highway dollars to disaster projects. FHWA routinely reviews project costs and determines project eligibility. FHWA has not identified instances of fraud or illegal mismanagement of grant funds.

Evidence: See: DOT Performance and Accountability Report, www.dot.gov/perfacc2004/contents.htm

YES 11%

Does the program have procedures (e.g. competitive sourcing/cost comparisons, IT improvements, appropriate incentives) to measure and achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness in program execution?

Explanation: The ER program is a subset of the larger FHWA Federal Aid grant program, and consequently follows FHWA's administrative procedures. For example, in 2005, FHWA competitively bid and won the contract related to data analysis and program planning support. Also, when a large number of natural disasters occur, FHWA competitively hires temporary specialists (usually retired project staff) to meet the workload. These two functions are utilized by the technicians and staff who perform many of FHWA's ER activities.


YES 11%

Does the program collaborate and coordinate effectively with related programs?

Explanation: FHWA works closely with state disaster response teams and with FEMA during damage assessments. FHWA and its partners follow common guidelines to prevent duplicate funding and overlapping activities. FHWA's emergency response teams were modeled after FEMA's response team procedures.

Evidence: See: ER authorizing statute 23 CFR 668, www.washingtonwatchdog.org/documents/cfr/title23/part668.html

YES 11%

Does the program use strong financial management practices?

Explanation: FHWA's system for reimbursing the states is highly automated. States report financial data using an on-line grants management system that is linked to DOT. FHWA is able to track specific ER projects through this system and its accounting systems. FHWA is also in the initial stage of implementing a managerial cost accounting system, which will allow FHWA to track staff time spent on ER projects and how these efforts contribute to the accomplishment of DOT's larger performance goals.

Evidence: FHWA follows the Cost Accounting Implementation Guide and other internal controls established under the department's financial management system, DELPHI.

YES 11%

Has the program taken meaningful steps to address its management deficiencies?

Explanation: Following a 1997 IG review, FHWA updated its ER guidance documents with the latest Federal Regulations, required staff to monitor adherence to existing regulations, and required field staff to monitor ER projects more closely. FHWA has begun to regularly conduct ER training for their field staff. FWHA updated its training courses for new ER manuals, and developed national databases of information regarding regulatory requirements and project completion timeliness.

Evidence: See IG reports: www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/r0fh7009.pdf; www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/tr1998191.pdf

YES 11%

Does the program have oversight practices that provide sufficient knowledge of grantee activities?

Explanation: FHWA field staff work closely with state highway departments and federal land management agencies to manage the ER program. FHWA field office employees conduct or review damage assessments, construction estimates, design processes, contract awards, and construction oversight. Specifically, FHWA division offices conduct program oversight and stewardship activities, while the state personnel do project specific work. Once repair work has begun after a disaster, FHWA approves projects and eligibility items. FHWA then monitors the ER spending and project development through its grants management system.


YES 11%

Does the program collect grantee performance data on an annual basis and make it available to the public in a transparent and meaningful manner?

Explanation: FHWA gathers grantee performance data on the ER program on an annual basis but does not make it readily available to the public, largely because the ER program is a small component of the Federal Aid Highways formula grant program. When disasters of national significance occur, FHWA issues press releases describing progress towards making repairs.


NO 0%
Section 3 - Program Management Score 89%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability
Number Question Answer Score

Has the program demonstrated adequate progress in achieving its long-term performance goals?

Explanation: In 2004, FHWA closed out 81 percent of ER projects within four years of the date of a disaster, thereby exceeding its goal of 75 percent. Further, although the state funding reimbursement backlog grew in recent years, it was eliminated when FHWA received an emergency appropriation following the 2004 hurricane season. This funding allowed FHWA to pay down the backlog of all outstanding ER eligible projects nationwide.

Evidence: See Public Law 108-324


Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

Explanation: Since 2000, FHWA has met or exceeded its goal of reviewing 80 percent of state project plans with 180 days or less. In contrast, FHWA has not consistently met its goals for releasing funds to states in 90 days or less. Performance has fluctuated significantly from year to year. Nevertheless, overall, FHWA has largely met its annual objectives.

Evidence: The multiple hurricanes that hit Florida and the Southeast US in 2004 caused delays in both the submittal of ER requests and in the release of annual allotments.


Does the program demonstrate improved efficiencies or cost effectiveness in achieving program goals each year?

Explanation: While FHWA has often met its efficiency targets for reviewing project eligibility, performance data does not indicate that FHWA has made continuous improvements in the operation of this program. For example the average number of days for FWHA to release funds to a state jumped from 75 in 2000 to 182 in 2004.



Does the performance of this program compare favorably to other programs, including government, private, etc., with similar purpose and goals?

Explanation: The nearest comparison to ER is the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Recovery program, which funds the rebuilding of damaged public infrastructure such as libraries and hospitals. Both programs strive to help communities rebuild quickly following disasters. However, there is insufficient data to base a comparison because FEMA and FHWA track different data and use different performance measures. Further, because they have differing grant relationships with the states, it would not be cost effective to develop like data at this time.

Evidence: See: FEMA Recovery PART in the 2006 President's Budget, a255.g.akamaitech.net/7/255/2422/11feb20050800/www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy06/pdf/pma/homeland.pdf

NA 0%

Do independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality indicate that the program is effective and achieving results?

Explanation: In 1998, the IG confirmed that FHWA successfully took steps to address program management deficiencies identified by the IG in 1997. However, this is the latest evaluation done on the ER program, which cannot be used to infer recent performance.

Evidence: See IG reports, www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/r0fh7009.pd; www.oig.dot.gov/StreamFile?file=/data/pdfdocs/tr1998191.pdf

Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability Score 50%

Last updated: 09062008.2005SPR