The Federal Highway Administration published a final rule on September 27 to give states more “flexibility and choice” to use proprietary or patented materials on federally funded highway projects. The new rule will take effect on October 28.
The agency said in its regulatory filing that the final rule “rescinds the requirements limiting the use of Federal funds in paying for patented or proprietary materials, specifications, or processes specified in project plans and specifications – thus encouraging innovation in transportation technology and methods.”
It is the last step in a process that began last November and to which AASHTO had commented on; one that the agency hopes “may also provide state DOTs an advantage by potentially obtaining highway materials or products at a lower price.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao noted in a statement that this change is intended to improve safety and increase efficiency while saving taxpayer dollars. “This much-needed update of a century-old, obsolete rule will benefit state transportation infrastructure projects and save millions of taxpayer dollars,” she said.
“This final rule promotes innovation by empowering states to choose which state-of-the-art materials, tools, and products best meet their needs for the construction and upkeep of America’s transportation infrastructure,” added Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason.
Nason pointed out that, prior to this change, federal regulations prohibited state contracting agencies from using federal funds to acquire patented or proprietary materials, products, or services, except under certain limited circumstances.