Government Shutdown Affects State DOTs

The partial federal government shutdown, now in its third week, has started to impact state departments of transportation (DOTs) and is delaying the start of new projects.

The partial federal government shutdown, now in its third week, has started to affect state departments of transportation (DOTs), including forcing some to delay the start of new infrastructure projects.

Oklahoma DOT Executive Director Mike Patterson, for example, announced earlier this week that the state has delayed 36 projects because it has not received nearly $100 million of anticipated funds from the federal government.

Typically, state DOTs front the money for surface transportation projects and are reimbursed by the federal government in the subsequent year for most of those costs. While most transportation activities are funded by the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), states rely on federal employees to distribute the funds. The majority of Federal Transit Administration employees have been furloughed, however, making it impossible for states to recoup those dollars while the federal government is shutdown.

Although many states have paused new projects, highway maintenance and other routine operations continue, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). States are relying on the state and federal dollars they have to prioritize the upkeep of roads and bridges.

State DOTs received the first quarter of their fiscal year 2019 appropriations before the partial government shutdown began. It is unclear, however, when Congress and the President will reach a deal to fund the remaining agencies, which in turn will allow states to receive the remaining money they are owed. The impact of the shutdown is expected to be felt throughout 2019.

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