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U.S. Department of Transportation overhauls century-old rule

News | September 27, 2019 | By:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has published an updated federal rule to give states more flexibility and choice in which products or services can be used on federally funded highway projects. The 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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The rule updates an outdated federal requirement that restricts the ability of states to use patented or proprietary technology in their Federal-aid highway projects.

“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,” said Federal Highway Administrator Nicole R. Nason.

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.

The Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) sent a letter to Chao and Nason expressing support for the repeal.

“We are excited about the updating of the CFR 635.411 century-old rule that restricted the use of proprietary and patented products in federal aid projects,” said GMA Chair Fred Chuck. “GMA supported ARTBA and former Secretary Burnley’s position on repealing the rule. The repeal of this rule will allow our industry to provide state-of-the-art geosynthetic methods for infrastructure projects, with products that result in faster construction, longer life cycles and potential reduction of delays.”

The new rule will take effect on Oct. 28, 2019. It can be viewed online at

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