Kansas, Georgia put transportation projects on hold

| 11/13/2008

A growing number of states are putting road and bridge projects on hold because of a downturn in transportation funding from fuel taxes.

A decrease in federal and state transportation funding in Kansas, for example, could total as much as $250 million in 2010 according to state Transportation Secretary Deb Miller.

Miller announced Wednesday, Nov. 12, that only 61 projects out of 156 scheduled to begin in December and January will proceed to construction while the remaining 95 will be pushed back on account of funding.

“We are operating in a time of extreme financial uncertainty, and it would be irresponsible for us to begin work on projects without knowing whether we will be able to pay for them,” Miller stated in a press release.

“KDOT’s first priority will be to preserve our system and complete local projects and those projects already under way.”

Other states have placed scheduled projects on the shelf in recent weeks.

In Georgia, state Department of Transportation officials announced that 11 road projects in the Atlanta region were being put on hold for lack of funding, including a new four-lane freeway connecting U.S. 41 to Interstate 75.

The Georgia DOT had previously purchased land needed for the projects, but that’s as far as things progressed. Officials have said that they hope the trend is only temporary.

Few states are without some sort of transportation funding crisis, and the debate continues about how to pay for needed road and bridge projects and to maintain current facilities.

In September, President Bush signed into law an $8 billion short-term bailout of the federal Highway Trust Fund. The fund supplies states with transportation dollars from revenue pooled from fuel taxes and other highway user fees.

Congress is preparing to draft a long-term transportation funding bill to replace the current funding legislation known as SAFETEA-LU, which was signed into law in 2005.

Some people believe that the fuel tax and Highway Trust Fund will remain viable for a few more years while others want to see alternative revenue generators pushed forward.

Funding mechanisms likely to be addressed by Congress and state governments in the near future include indexing fuel taxes to inflation; increasing vehicle registration and licensing fees; road tolling; congestion pricing; and a tax on vehicle miles traveled, also known as VMT.

– By David Tanner, staff writer