The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is a division of the United States Department of Transportation that specializes in highway transportation. The agency's major activities are grouped into two "programs," the Federal-aid Highway Program and the Federal Lands Highway Program.
FHWA's role in the Federal-aid Highway Program is to oversee federal funds used for constructing and maintaining the National Highway System (primarily Interstate Highways, U.S. Routes and most State Routes). This funding mostly comes from the federal gasoline tax and mostly goes to State departments of transportation. FHWA oversees projects using these funds to ensure that federal requirements for project eligibility, contract administration and construction standards are adhered to.
Under the Federal Lands Highway Program (sometimes called "direct fed"), FHWA provides highway design and construction services for various federal land-management agencies, such as the Forest Service and the National Park Service.
In addition to these programs, FHWA performs research in the areas of automobile safety, congestion, highway materials and construction methods. FHWA also publishes the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which is used by most highway agencies in the United States. The MUTCD specifies such things as the size, color and height of stop signs.
FHWA was created on October 15, 1966; however, it has several predecessor organizations and a complicated history.http://www.tfhrc.gov/pubrds/fall93/p93au1.htm The first predecessor was the Office of Road Inquiry (ORI), founded in 1893. In 1905 that organization's name was changed to the Office of Public Roads (OPR), and it became a division of the United States Department of Agriculture. The name was changed to Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) in 1915. In 1939 the name was changed to Public Roads Administration (PRA) and it was shifted to the Federal Works Agency (FWA). With the abolition of the FWA in 1949, its name was changed back to BPR and it was shifted to the Department of Commerce. In 1967 the BPR was transferred to the newly created FHWA, and was one of three original bureaus along with the Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety and the National Highway Safety Bureau (now known as NHTSA).http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/rw93.htm