$7 billion in federal highway funds obligated so far 2013

The latest analysis of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data shows that federal, state and local transportation departments of transportation (DOTs) have so far obligated $7 billion in federal funds during Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, which began last Oct. 1 — is an increase of 56 percent from the $4.5 billion obligated during the same time in 2012 last year.  This analysis was done by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).

Although passing the latest surface transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) has provided some “stability,” says ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black. She notes that obligation levels were “quite low in FY 2012 and FY 2011 as state transportation departments were dealing with a series of continuing resolutions for the federal aid program.”

ARTBA’s monthly report, “Obligation of Federal Highway Funds,” finds that the $2.3 billion obligated in January was 13 percent higher than the amount obligated during January 2012 ($2 billion), but 3.9 percent less than during January 2010 ($2.4 billion) when state DOTs were rushing to obligate the last of their American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a.k.a. “The Stimulus,” funds.

Although obligations are off to a good start, Black says, there are still some “unknowns” ahead. Legislation to fund the federal government must be enacted before the end of March if states are to receive more than the $16.9 billion of highway funds that are required to be obligated before the end of the fiscal year.

The obligation of federal funds is a leading indicator of state level market activity, Black points out.  When a state or local DOT has an eligible project ready to go under the federal-aid highway program, it enters into an agreement with FHWA that obligates the federal government to pay its share of the costs. The project can then proceed to bidding and construction.

ARTBA is selling its full report, which contains a detailed state-by-state analysis of obligated funds. To buy the report, you can contact Sarah Crane at ARTBA at [email protected].