On Sept. 26, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced it was repealing the 1916 procurement rule prohibiting state and local governments from using patented or proprietary products on highway and bridge projects that receive federal funding — unless those products qualified for limited exceptions.

For those not well versed—which is most—on this archaic rule, it has obstructed state transportation agencies from utilizing patented or proprietary materials, specifications or processes on federal-aid highway projects. It’s had the practical effect of hindering innovation and development of potentially life-saving technologies for use throughout the nation’s highway and bridge system.

The repeal gives states the option to use patented and proprietary products on federal-aid projects if they choose to do so.  While the original rule was intended to preserve fair competition, a level playing field must not be confused with celebrating the status quo. States now have the freedom to use federal funds on the full range of transportation products and solutions that best meet their needs.