- States are holding off on cementing their plans for 2019 surface transportation projects, according to The Washington Post, since much of their funding has been cut off due to the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more likely state transportation operations and maintenance functions will be affected as well.
- Local transportation departments that depend on federal money had already been at a disadvantage since Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year, as the government was working under a continuing resolution. This lowered the initial disbursement to states to 25% of the $55 billion earmarked for highway and federal transit projects. Working under a continuing resolution also kept funding at 2018 levels, leaving states without the extra cash Congress approved for 2019.
- Some states are worse off than others, depending on how much they rely on the federal government to pay for their transportation projects. States like New Jersey are better off since federal dollars make up 30% or less of their highway and transit budgets, but others like Montana rely on Uncle Sam to pay for up to 85% of their transportation projects. The DOTs that count on federal dollars the least are likely to have more cash of their own that they can move around to cover costs until the government money starts flowing again, but Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, told The Post that “that’s not something they can continue to do forever."
The Oklahoma DOT this week announced that, because of uncertainty around federal funding right now, it would delay bidding for 45 projects worth $137 million. The Nevada DOT, on the other hand, said it received a first-quarter federal funding commitment before the shutdown and has enough money on hand to pay for projects until the money starts flowing again, at least for the short-term.
Even before the government shutdown, though, transportation advocates had accused President Donald Trump’s administration of dragging its feet on actually sending the cash on to states and other transportation agencies for approved projects.
Transportation For America’s website tracks the gap in project approvals and disbursements and claims that the Federal Transit Administration is currently holding on to more than $1.5 billion. The administration recently said it has executed 13 Full Funding Grant Agreements worth $3.3 billion since Trump took office and plans to approve four more worth $1.5 billion this year.