Obama administration warns states that Fed transportation money running out

Yesterday we cited the Infrastructure Week emphasis on rebuilding American infrastructure. In that post, we noted stalled efforts to renew critical federal funding, something Opportunity Washington wrote about in the transportation discussion in our research report. 

Today, the Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is warning states that federal highway funding runs out at the end of the month.

“Unless Congress acts prior to this date, the Federal Highway Administration will be unable to make any new obligations of federal-aid funds to your department’s highway projects,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a letter to state authorities this week. “Unlike last summer’s cash shortfall when states faced the prospect of delayed payments, under a lapse in authorization, reimbursements on all projects will be halted completely, not simply delayed.”

The WaPo notes that an extension is expected. Extensions, however, aren’t certainty. And certainty is what’s required. This has become a pattern, one that frustrates long-range planning.

If Congress moves to patch the pothole in funding, it would be the 33rd time in the past six years that lawmakers have exercised that option rather than pass a long-term bill.

Taking that route again will exacerbate frustration among state and local officials, many of whom have delayed or suspended projects that depend on long-term commitments in federal funding.

The certainty of federal uncertainty adds urgency to transportation discussions in Olympia. A comprehensive state transportation package is necessary now.