USDOT and highway projects shut down; filibusters halt efforts to restore transportation funding

Disagreements in Congress--what U.S Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood called "political games"--have shut down the U.S. Department of Transportation and delayed a number of projects in Missouri.

SAFETEA-LU, the enabling legislation for federal transportation funding, expired last fall. Because Congress has been consumed with high profile issues like Health Care reform, congressional leaders have agreed to put off the consideration of the new federal transportation funding bill until later this year.

In the meanwhile, federal transportation funding--which mostly flows to states through the state DOTs--has been kept moving through a series of special appropriations for a few weeks or months at a time.

Several recent bills have included a provision to fund USDOT through the end of the year.  But those efforts all have been caught up in  recent political infighting over the health care and jobs bills, and when funding expired Friday, no bill had been passed to restore it.

Sources in Congress are saying that the earliest funding can be restored is Thursday.

The result could be significant projects lost in Missouri.  According to Brad Cooper writing in the KCStar:

About a dozen local highway projects, including a new bike lane on the Chouteau Bridge, will be delayed because of a swirl of doubt about federal transportation funding.

The Missouri Department of Transportation canceled Friday’s bid opening for 47 projects statewide, including about a dozen in the Kansas City area, because Congress hadn’t fixed a highway funding problem. . . .

The loss of funds could immediately cost the Kansas City area about a dozen bridge and paving projects. In addition to the bike lane, other affected projects include paving on Route RA from Todd George Road to Ranson Road in Lee’s Summit, and paving Route FF from Missouri 7 near Independence to Lafayette County.

If the problem isn’t corrected by Monday, MoDOT will work with transportation planners across the state to determine what projects should move ahead based on the money that’s available.  

What can you do?

Few or no members of Congress really believe transportation funding should be cut.  It has simply been caught in the crossfire and controversy over other, unrelated programs. A simple call or email to your members of Congress telling them that you support inclusion of bicycle & pedestrian funding as appropriate in transportation projects and asking them to restore federal transportation funding as soon as possible, will carry a lot of weight.

You could also mention that representatives of he Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation and other Missouri groups will be visiting them next week in Washington during the National Bike Summit to talk about these and other issues.

Just click the links below for your two senators and member of Congress--either a quick phone call or message using their online contact form is very effective:

House of Representatives: