In a letter to Congress, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) made an urgent request for $50 billion in direct emergency assistance to state departments of transportation experiencing a dramatic decrease in revenues due to the nationwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“State DOTs are forecasting a significant reduction in state transportation revenues that will challenge their ability to maintain and operate our transportation system in a way that can support the COVID-19 response,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director. “Some state DOTs are already furloughing workers due to funding shortfalls and more will be faced with the same difficult decision about projects and people, unless Congress takes action.”
Just as Congress has provided billions of dollars in emergency assistance in support of public transportation agencies, commercial airlines, and other industries, AASHTO is calling on Congress to approve an immediate funding “backstop” to state departments of transportation as part of a “Phase 4” recovery package.
Preliminary projections from state DOTs show at least a 30% decline in transportation revenues on average for the next 18 months. AASHTO’s proposal calls for a fiscal year 2020 and 2021 funding backstop of $50 billion to be distributed to state DOTs via formula: approximately $16.7 billion for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 (30% state revenue cut prorated over six months), and approximately $33.3 billion for all of fiscal year 2021 (30% state revenue cut for a full year).
In addition to backstop funding, AASHTO is also concerned that current federal surface transportation authorization — the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act — will expire in just six months with no clear pathway in sight to renew federal funding for America’s highway and transit programs. AASHTO requests Congress to double the amount of federal surface transportation funding and reauthorize these programs for at least another six years.
“A failure to reauthorize the FAST Act before it expires in September will lead to short-term extensions, funding uncertainty, and the possibility of transportation project delays or stoppages, which will hurt the economy in the short-term and limit our ability to drive economic recovery once this crisis is over,” said Tymon.