The following is a brief history of the early development of RTAP (In response to a request from Jim Iverson of the South Dakota FHWA Division Office for proper citation of the Act creating RTAP). The proper citation is U.S.C. Public Law 97-102.
The concept of a rural technical assistance program first appeared in a conference committee report on appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation and Related Agencies in 1981. Through the efforts of Senator Mark Andrews (R-North Dakota), the Senate Committee on Appropriations managed to have the House recede from its request that funds for rural technical assistance be postponed pending authorization legislation at a later time.
House Bill 4209 initially proposed funding for rural technical assistance. However, on passage of the bill through the House, all mention of such assistance was deleted:
“The Committee has also reduced research and development programs by $1,520,000, reduced the skill training by $5,000,000 and has deleted the request for rural technical assistance. The Committee believes the increase for skill training and the funding for rural technical assistance should be deferred pending enactment of additional authorizing legislation.” House Report 97-186 (Committee on Appropriations)
The Senate did not agree:
“The Committee does not concur with the House action to eliminate rural transportation assistance. Instead, the Committee directs funding at the level of $5,000,000 in recognition of the need to meet the growing demands placed on rural roads, resulting from increased urban sprawl and the increased size and weight of trucks carrying goods from farm to market.” Senate Report 97-253 (Committee on Appropriations)
Finally, when representatives of both the Senate and House appropriations committees got together in conference to iron out their disagreements, the Senate prevailed:
Appropriating funding for the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 1982 –
Amendment 26: Limit on General and Operating Expenses – Limit general and operating expenses to $192,440,000 to $187,440,000 as proposed by the Senate and $200,400,000 as proposed by the House. The conference agreement includes $5,000,000 for the rural technical assistance program.” House Report 97-331 (Committee on Conference)
This is the first use of “rural technical assistance program”. It is significant in the sense that no formal “program” was even mentioned in the House or Senate reports prior to the Conference Committee meeting. Also, the funding was to come from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s general and operating expenses account (from October 1, 1981 – September 30, 1982).
Congress finally passed House Bill 4209 on December 14, 1981, and it was signed into law on December 23, 1981 by President Reagan.