Federal Highway Fund shortfall may stall local projects
Updated: Monday, July 14 2014, 08:07 PM EDT
ALBANY -- A number of long-term local construction projects may be delayed if congress can't come to an agreement on how to fund the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The fund is quickly running dry and if a deal isn't reached by the end of the month, the feds may slow reimbursements to states for highway projects.
The New York State Department of Transportation says any projects already underway or awarded with its 2014 capital program will be funded but long-term congressional inaction could have significant implications.
Drivers contribute to the fund by paying a federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon but the fund far outspends what it takes in. New York State alone gets about 1.7 billion dollars annually which pays for roughly 70% of capital road projects in the state.
"There's a group of people who don't want to fund it, we have to stop them. We depend on our infrastructure for good paying jobs, this employs people and brings companies to the region as well," says U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer.
NYSDOT will continue to receive reimbursements from the Highway Trust Fund for projects that are under construction but the reimbursements may be smaller, based on the federal formula, because of the Trust Fund's shortfall. NYSDOT says it will be able to make up the differences for the projects under construction now, in hopes that those dollars will eventually be federally reimbursed. Beyond this year, without the shortfall being addressed though, projects on next year’s capital program could face delays. "There are no guarantees, if State DOT says they'll fund them than that's better than nothing but for how long will that go on…and once we don't renew the highway trust fund, it's much harder to get it going again, the state can't fund it for a very long time," says Senator Schumer.
There is a proposal on the table that won't raise the gas-tax for drivers for now, but it would be a temporary fix, "I'd prefer it be renewed on a long-term basis, to do this every six months of every year doesn't allow our highway people to plan and do long-term projects but the worst case scenario would be to let it run out," says Schumer. But even that fix hasn't been voted on yet.