Refuge Roads (RR)

The Refuge Roads Program (RRP) provides funding for the design, construction, reconstruction, maintenance, or improvement of refuge roads and bridges that provide access to or are within a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  Funding cannot be used to design or construct new roads.  This is the only Federal Lands Highway (FLH) Program that allows funding for maintenance.  RRP funds can be used for any type of Title 23 transportation project providing access to or within Federal or Indian lands and may be used for the State/local matching share for apportioned Federal-aid Highway Funds, as described in 23 USC 120(l).  The Federal Highway Administration’s Federal Lands Highway Office administers the program.


The Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manage over 570 units in 50 states and territories covering over 95 million acres.  Combined, these units includes  over 4,800 miles of public roads; just fewer than 5,000 parking lots; over 300 bridges; over 680 miles of trails and boardwalks; 6 transit systems; and 2 ferryboats (used in AK and VA).

Section 1115(e) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21, P.L. 105-178) expanded the FLH Program to include Refuge roads, those roads in the refuges of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  It also provided that the funds allocated according to the relative needs of the various refuges, and taking into account the:

  • Comprehensive conservation plan for each refuge,
  • Need for access as identified through land use planning, and
  • Impact of land use planning on existing transportation facilities.

TEA-21 authorized $20 million for each of fiscal years 1999 through 2003. 
The program continued with the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59) authorized $20 million for FY 2004 and from FY 2005 through FY 2009 authorized $29 million for each of the fiscal year.  The FWS and FHWA, FLH administers the RRP.

RRP Program was eliminated under MAP-21. All projects previously authorized under the RRP Program will still be administered under previous rules and regulations of the RRP Program.

Statutory References:
Section 1101 (a)(9)(C) of SAFETEA-LU:
Amends 23 U.S.C. Section 104 so that this program is now authorized for $29,000,000 per year.

Section 1119 (h) of SAFETEA-LU:
Amends 23 U.S.C. Section 204(a)(1) so that refuge roads are now included on the list of roadways that are recognized as needing treatment under uniform policies similar to the policies that apply to Federal-Aid highways.

Section 1119(j) of SAFETEA-LU:
Amends 23 U.S.C. Section 204(k) so that:

  • Interpretive signage was an eligible item for this program,
  • So that funds made available under the refuge roads program could be used as the non-federal match for any project funded under Title 23 or chapter 53 of Title 49, so long as that project provides access to or within a wildlife refuge, and
  • Recreational trails were eligible under this program, but limit the total amount spent on trails at 5%. The total Recreational trails program is capped at 5%.

Period of Availability:
In accordance with 23 U.S.C. 204(b), RRP funds shall remain available for obligation for three years after the last day of the fiscal year in which the project was authorized. Therefore, un-authorized funds will lapse at the end of federal fiscal year 2015.

Federal Share:
In accordance with 23 U.S.C. 204(b), the Federal share of the costs for any project eligible under this program was 100 percent.

Obligation Limitation:
The RRP funds are subject to obligation limitation; however, 100 percent obligation authority is provided with the allocation of funds for the selected projects. The obligation limitation reduced the available funding for the program under the provisions of SAFETEA-LU Section 1119(h).

The RRP provides a means to pay the cost of maintenance and improvement of public roads.  New road construction was not permitted except for spot traffic safety improvement work.

Selection Criteria:
Projects were selected by the FWS and approved by the FLH.  No legislative formula was established for allocating funds.  The formula for distributing the RRP funding between the FWS Regions was based on the following attributes:
            1) Inventory,
            2) Roadway condition,
            3) Traffic volumes, and
            4) Traffic accident rates.

Allocation of Funds - FHWA Headquarters Program Office Responsibilities:
The FLH Office issued the following allocations within a few days of receiving the request:

  • Letter to the FWS an amount of fiscal year RRP funds to cover RRP activities administered by the FWS.
  • Memorandum to the Federal Lands Highway Divisions (FLHDs) showing allocation amounts of fiscal year RRP contract authority and obligation limitation funds to cover RRP activities being done by FLHDs as requested by FWS.

FHWA Headquarters Program Office Contact:
Sergio Mayorga
Refuge Roads Program Manager
Federal Lands Highway Office
Phone: (202) 366-9491