Eligible transportation projects in need of funding now have the opportunity to access roughly $2 billion in previously unused earmarks, under recently released guidance from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Through this "repurposing," state and local governments can now access funding that has previously been earmarked for specific uses without having to go through a lengthy legislative process. This announcement comes pursuant to the 2016 Omnibus spending law that provided states authority to repurpose earmarked funds if the earmark is more than 10 years old with less than 10 percent of project funds obligated or if the project is closed.
Congressional "earmarks," no longer permissible under the rules of Congress, would direct money to specific projects, often regardless of feasibility or need. State DOTs that have obligated such a small percentage of the funding will now be able to use it for entirely new products. "Rather than have those funds sit on the shelf unused, what we have in the past several years been attempting to do is actually put that money to work in ways state DOTs need," said Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA.)
The DOT has provided guidance and a list of the unused earmarks that may be eligible for repurposing on its website. States have until the end of fiscal year 2016 to repurpose eligible funds for projects within 50 miles of the original earkmark purpose. However, states will be able to lump its money together for a new project, as DOT is likely to be lenient in determining the geographical boundary for the original earmark. Those states electing to repurpose funds will have until Sept. 30, 2019, to obligate the funds.
Other Funding Opportunities
In addition to repurposed funds, the DOT also recently announced the notice of funding availability for infrastructure projects through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.
The recent highway reauthorization bill (FAST Act) authorized $1.435 billion over five years for the TIFIA credit assistance program. The wide range of surface transportation projects eligible for TIFIA assistance include those in support of highways, passenger and freight rail, public transit, bridges and tunnels.
Secretary Foxx has encouraged interested states and cities to submit letters of interest for direct loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit through the program and has promised applicants a streamlined review process. Additional information about the TIFIA Program is available at http://www.transportationgov/tifia.
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