The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has operated as a Federal Cabinet department since 1967, merging the Federal government’s transportation oversight functions (e.g., Federal Aviation Agency, Bureau of Public Roads, etc.) and the subsequent transfer of functions to the Department of Homeland Security (e.g., the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Coast Guard). The diversity of USDOT's jurisdiction—aviation, rail, roads, trucks, buses, maritime, pipeline and hazardous materials, and more—promotes subject matter expertise within the operating administrations. For this reason, among others, USDOT operates as a functionally and geographically diverse organization.
USDOT has traditionally played a critical role in maintaining and improving the transportation network across the country through Federal funding. In part, USDOT receives Congressional appropriations in support of stated national priorities and programs, for which the Secretary of Transportation delegates authority to the modal administrators to carry out the mission of USDOT. These appropriations are used to carry out various funding and financing programs within the respective operating administrations, in addition to covering personnel, administrative, and other costs.
Transportation funding may come from a variety of sources and channels, including grants, loans, formula funds, and public-private partnerships. However, despite these opportunities, rural projects may not receive full access to some forms of Federal funding. Rural roads, for example, are predominantly in a different functional class, which would render them ineligible for Federal assistance. Also, local governments with limited resources may not be able to meet certain funding match requirements or have the same level of familiarity with or access to USDOT funding as their urban counterparts.