Earmark overhaul makes $2 billion available for transportation projects

Anthony Foxx | Contributed photo

The Obama administration has been leading an effort to revamp how taxpayers' money is spent through the rigid earmark system, and the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration recently released guidelines that aim to re-purpose unused funds for transportation infrastructure projects.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said that approximately $2 billion in unused earmarks can be made available for projects nationwide.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for state and local governments to work together to identify their needs heading into the next 30 years,” Foxx said. “I encourage these leaders to identify innovative projects that reconnect their communities and increase access to jobs, education and basic services.”

The new guidance from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) uses a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, under which states can re-purpose specific earmarked funds that are over 10 years old if less than 10 percent of the earmark had gone toward the project for which it was originally established or if the project had been canceled altogether.

Until the end of 2016, states may re-designate earmarked funds for other projects, provided they are in close proximity (within 50 miles) of the project for which they were originally intended. Once the decision has been made to re-purpose the funds, they must be used before the end of fiscal year 2019.

“By providing a path to put nearly $2 billion stranded dollars to work, we have an important opportunity to support infrastructure projects across the country while at the same time clearing a legacy backlog and promoting good government,” FHWA Administrator Gregory Nadeau said. “Instead of sitting idle, these funds can help keep drivers safe and provide opportunities for communities nationwide.”

A list of potentially eligible earmarked funds can be found online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/cfo/earmarkrepurposing.

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