Chart of the Week – HTF Highway Account Spending Rates

August 17, 2018

Because August is a really slow month, we were getting caught up on our various database activities and decided to put together a chart visualizing the annual cycle of payments from the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund.

In most places in the country, outdoor construction work is still largely seasonal, and the highway construction and maintenance activities start slowing down in October, bottom out in February, and then start picking up in April or May with the spring contract lettings.

The chart below looks at monthly Highway Account outlays for the last ten fiscal years, as reported by DOT in Table FE-1. The thick black line is the current fiscal year, through July 31. Outlays this year in all months have been on the high end of the 10-year lookback, but in no cases are they record-setting.

The outlier of course is the orange line, which is fiscal year 2010, the year that the bulk of the FY 2009 ARRA stimulus spending took place. As the Congressional Budget Office correctly predicted (and the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama denied would happen), states simply did not have enough capacity to spend their regular federal-aid highway funding and the one-time, use-it-or-lose-it ARRA highway funding, and sensibly chose to cut back to some extent on their regular Trust Fund spending in 2010 and to a lesser extent in 2011 so they could concentrate on spending as much of their stimulus money as possible.

(If anyone knows why there was that weird spike in outlays in November 2015 – was it some kind of account shift, or was it real money – please let us know.) (Aug. 22 update: FHWA informs us that the huge spike in outlays in November 2015 that causes that big spike in the brown FY16 line is because FHWA was upgrading the computer systems that do its accounting during October 2015 and taking them off-line while they did so. For several weeks in October, states did not get any repayments at all, so November 2015 had all of its own regular outlays plus most of the October outlays as well.)


Search Eno Transportation Weekly

Latest Issues

Happening on the Hill