Construction groups seek more transportation funding as shutdown looms

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infrastructure damages on highwayAs the deadline nears to prevent a federal government shutdown, the construction industry is calling on Congress to increase spending for highways, bridges and public transit.

The U.S. government has been operating on a continuing resolution passed in September and ending December 11. Congressional leaders are working on extending the appropriations through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2021. However, the divide between the Republican-majority Senate and Democratic-majority House is proving difficult to bridge. The House passed a bill Wednesday to extend the resolution an additional week, to December 18, to allow more time to reach a deal. That legislation now heads to the Senate.

Meanwhile, groups such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Associated General Contractors and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association are calling on Congress to boost transportation funding beyond what has been planned for the fiscal year.

In November, AASHTO sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for an additional $3.25 billion in FAST Act funding for federal highways and $834 million for transit grants to states. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act was established in 2015 and provided $305 billion for fiscal years 2016 to 2020. It was set to expire September 30, but the continuing resolution calls for funding to keep it going another year.

Also last month, the Transportation Construction Coalition asked in a letter for $2.4 billion in supplemental highway funding, $700 million more for public transportation and $500 million more for airports. The TCC includes ARTBA, AGC and 30 other construction-related groups and trade unions.

The TCC letter to congressional leaders notes the pandemic has reduced state revenues for transportation projects, causing some to be delayed or canceled.

“State departments of transportation and public transportation agencies canceled or delayed more than $12 billion in projects due to pandemic-related factors,” the letter says.

“Providing these additional federal funds will ensure a predictable, equitable and nationwide distribution of critical federal transportation infrastructure dollars – which is especially crucial this year with the severe impact of Covid-19 in every aspect of state DOT revenues and programs,” says the AASHTO letter.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect House vote on stopgap measure.