On September 9, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials along with 87 other organizations co-signed a letter to Congressional leadership calling for a one-year “turn-key” extension of current surface transportation funding legislation with the addition of emergency funding for state departments of transportation and public transit agencies.
“Public agencies continue to face COVID-19 pandemic-induced revenue declines,” the groups said in the letter. “As a result, state and local entities already delayed or cancelled $8 billion in surface transportation projects, with more on the horizon absent any clear sign of support from the federal government.”
Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, added that a one-year extension of current surface transportation funding legislation – known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act, which expires on September 30 – must happen in order to give state DOTs the certainty needed for planning, letting, and building projects through the 2021 construction season.
“Ideally, if this extension can be provided with increased funding, our industry will be able to employ more Americans in the construction sector which, in turn, will bolster market certainty for the transportation industry in 2021; making businesses more likely to hire workers while investing in new equipment and technologies,” he said. “With a clean FAST Act policy extension, we can avoid the inclusion of new policies and programs that can delay timely distribution of federal funding. Congress absolutely has to get this done by the end of the month.”
[Tymon further explained in a recent video interview how federal support could keep vital projects on track and people working so America’s transportation infrastructure will keep providing what the nations need “for decades to come.”]
The letter is also requesting $37 billion in emergency federal funding for state DOTs, along with an additional $32 billion for public transit agencies, due to the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on state transportation revenues, which are only now gradually recovering from a steep falloff that began in March with the imposition of stay-at-home orders.
“The recovery period [from COVID-19] is now expected to be longer than originally anticipated,” noted Patrick McKenna – director of the Missouri Department of Transportation and AASHTO’s 2019-2020 president – and AASHTO’s Tymon in a July 20 letter sent to Congress.
“This [emergency funding] will prevent further disruptions to planned transportation projects and allow state DOT employees and transportation construction workers essential to planning and delivering these projects to remain on the job,” they said.