In fiscal year 1982, the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriation Act (Public Law 97-102) made $5 million available for rural technical assistance. Congress instructed that the funding be used to provide technical assistance to help rural local governments provide roads that met the growing demands placed upon them by urban expansion and increased truck loads.
In fiscal year 1983, Congress directed that the funding be used to develop a program and implementation schedule identifying the special needs of rural transportation and ways to meet those needs. This program was to be implemented under the provisions of 23 United States Code (U.S.C.) 104(a). FHWA was designated as the lead agency for the program because of its experience with rural roads and network of division offices.
The Rural Technical Assistance Program, the predecessor to LTAP, was originally funded at $5 million per year through 1985. These funds were included as a "set aside" in FHWA's budget request to Congress for General Operating and Expenses (GOE). RTAP began in October 1982 with ten centers as a pilot program.
Gradually, additional centers joined the program. In order to extend the program coverage with the available dollars, a requirement that funds used in the center be matched on a 50/50 basis was implemented in fiscal year 1987.
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 renewed the program and widened its scope to include urban areas with populations up to 1 million and promised funding at $6 million per year through 1997. This new "contract authority" was additive to that which continued to be available through the annual GOE appropriation.
Thus, RTAP became the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). This new authorization also emphasized intergovernmental transportation planning as well as travel and tourism, for American Indian tribal governments, through training and technical assistance.
From its beginning of 10 centers, LTAP is now a nationwide system of 57 centers, located in universities and state highway agencies, serving each state and Puerto Rico (except the District of Columbia). Six Tribal Technical Assistance (TTAP) centers serve American Indian Tribal Governments.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) continued the program as follows:
The Secretary shall carry out a local technical assistance program that will provide access to surface transportation technology to
highway and transportation agencies in urbanized areas with populations of between 50,000 and 1,000,000 individuals;
highway and transportation agencies in rural areas; and
contractors that do work for the agencies.
The Secretary may make grants and enter into cooperative agreements and contracts to provide education and training, technical assistance, and related support services to
assist rural, local transportation agencies and tribal governments, and the consultants and construction personnel working for the agencies and governments, to
develop and expand their expertise in road and transportation areas (including pavement, bridge, concrete structures, safety management systems, and traffic safety countermeasures);
improve roads and bridges;
enhance programs for the movement of passengers and freight; and intergovernmental transportation planning and project selection; and
deal effectively with special transportation-related problems by preparing and providing training packages, manuals, guidelines, and technical resource materials;
develop technical assistance for tourism and recreational travel;
identify, package, and deliver transportation technology and traffic safety information to local jurisdictions to assist urban transportation agencies in developing and expanding their ability to deal effectively with transportation-related problems;
operate, in cooperation with State transportation departments and universities
local technical assistance program centers designated to provide transportation technology transfer services to rural areas and to urbanized areas with populations of between 50,000 and 1,000,000 individuals; and
local technical assistance program centers designated to provide transportation technical assistance to Indian tribal governments;
and allow local transportation agencies and tribal governments, in cooperation with the private sector, to enhance new technology implementation.
Congress approves continued funding for LTAP/TTAP as part of the federal-aid highway bill, the Safe Accountable Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) (Public Law 109-59, Title V Section 5204(b)). Annual funding for the program was increased to $11.1 million through fiscal year 2009.
Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112-141), was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012. Funding surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2014, MAP-21 is the first long-term highway authorization enacted since 2005.
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