Around $2 billion of unused money that was once-earmarked for specific projects by members of the United
States Congress will be transferred to State Transportation
Departments. Earmarked funds were often not used due to
funding reasons or because the project was not planned by
state or local officials.
The 2016 omnibus spending bill allows the transfer of
money that previously was designated by members of
Congress for specific projects, often regardless of merit
or feasibility, to transportation departments. Language is
included under Title I to allow advances to the Federal
Highway Administration, Department of Transportation
under certain circumstances.
Earmarks subject to the provision must be more than
10 years old and less than 10 percent of the earmarked
money can have been spent. According to a spreadsheet
from Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) providing
earmark projects as of June 30, 2015, the amount is about
$2 billion. Six Departments of Transportation (DOT) seem
in line to receive hundreds of millions of dollars, including
New York, Georgia, California and Pennsylvania. Two
states, North Dakota and Wyoming, seem positioned to get
nothing. AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright notes
that the amount of money involved is about four times
the size of the DOT’s annual TIGER grant program, and
will help many states that are struggling to pay for their
transportation project needs.
The money will be freed of its original earmarked
project and come with relatively few constraints attached.
So, the provision stipulates the money has to remain
in the state and be used on a project within 50 miles of
the original earmark. Furthermore, the spending must
go toward a federally eligible project that has been on a
transportation improvement plan, to help a project that is
part of the state’s long-term vision. DOTs will have to work
with the local communities that were the original intended
recipients of the earmark. Often a local transportation
agency will be able to make use of the money for a project
that the state itself was not willing to fund.
Old Highway Earmarks Released for