Earmarks are back.
After a decade-long absence, bill provisions that direct funds to specific recipients have returned to Washington, D.C., politics. Congressional leaders from both parties took steps in March to permit limited earmarks, which will allow some spending projects to be included in legislation.
The return is a new bargaining chip that could incentivize negotiation on deals, such as on President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal.
As a result, the House Committee on Appropriations requested community project funding requests be made public and formally submitted by April 30, although some may be posted in May or June after project lists included in the administration's budget are known.
This week, the Appropriations Committee shared a table of the 2,887 requests received from 328 representatives. The requests totaled $5.9 billion and ranged from $135.9 million to $15. The median request was $950,000, according to Construction Dive analysis of the data.
Here is a look at a few of the largest budget requests that pertain to construction:
Dallas-Fort Worth bridge replacement program
Amount requested: $135.9 million
Reps. Colin Allred (D-Texas) and Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas) had the two highest requests for earmarks, but for the same project and using identical language as an explanation. They requested $135.9 million in funds to improve the bridges and overpasses surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The funds would result in the creation of 450 construction jobs, according to the representatives.
The roadways provide direct access to terminals and parking lots. If no updates are made to the bridges surrounding the airport, "millions of people would be impacted by significant bottlenecks during peak periods because of the series of detours which would be triggered as a result of closing the flyovers," Allred and Van Duyne both wrote.
The improvements would take place over a projected 20-year period and serve 2.5 million vehicles, avoiding 22.5 million vehicle hours traveled from detours, according to Allred and Van Duyne.
Dallas-Fort Worth Brute Force Electric Central Utility Plant
Amount requested: $98 million
The second-highest requested project was also from Allred and Van Duyne in the DFW area. The new Central Utility Plant would serve the airport, addressing heating and cooling demand, improving resiliency and maximizing efficiency, while positioning itself to achieve net zero carbon by 2030. It would achieve that goal by replacing the aging steam piping distribution system with a more efficient hot water piping system, improving regional air quality.
"By enhancing capacity and restoring redundancy of heating and cooling systems, the new CUP will improve DFW Airport's resiliency," Van Duyne said. "It will also serve the needs of long-term growth and enable future terminal expansion."
Omaha flood prevention
Amount requested: $89.2 million
Rep. Don Bacon (D-Neb.) has requested funds for six priority flood control reservoirs in the Omaha, Nebraska, metro area. The project would reduce the risk of flooding, an issue which Bacon said has been exacerbated by climate change. The proposal would protect infrastructure, utilities, railroads, highways and bridges, Bacon said, and make the community more resilient. The projects already have local dollars invested in planning, permitting and design, and are ready to construct. Additionally, prevention will save money in the long term, he said.
"The project contributes to disaster preparedness and helps the community rebound and recover more quickly after large storm events which translates to less federal dollars needed after disaster declarations," Bacon said.
Fort Bend County, Texas, Farm to Market Road 2977 expansion
Amount requested: $70 million
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), requested $70 million for the expansion of Farm to Market Road 2977 in Texas' Fort Bend County. He requested reconstruction along the 8-mile stretch of road, to rebuild the two-lane asphalt roadway as a two-lane concrete roadway. The area needs additional travel lanes and safety improvements due to development along the corridor, Nehls said.
Ardmore, Oklahoma, Industrial Airpark
Amount requested: $50 million
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) has requested $50 million for improvements to the aging infrastructure at Ardmore Industrial Airpark in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The funds would be used to pay for replacing the 60-year-old facility, which is required to expand the airport and accommodate larger commercial planes. The space, Cole wrote in his request, requires a clean water supply, upgraded fire protection systems, a sanitary sewer, street improvements and air improvements including the replacement of apron and a short taxiway to the south of the airpark's main runway.
"The need for cargo handling capacity at U.S. airports is greater than ever and will remain that way until e-commerce and the demand for next- and second-day deliveries no longer exist,” read Cole's request. "The Ardmore Airpark is probably one of the nation's best available, underutilized assets to help fill this critical need."
Here is a look at all of the earmark requests made by lawmakers (click on the square icon in the bottom right corner to enlarge):