Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Tuesday voted to provide badly needed funding for the Highway and Transit Trust Fund, which is projected to be run out of money next month due to decreased gas tax revenues. It also reauthorizes surface transportation programs, which expire in September, through May 2015.
If not for this bipartisan bill, which passed the House 367-55, federal infrastructure funds to states would have been cut by roughly 28 percent starting Aug. 1. This would have led to the delay of more than 100,000 transportation projects, and the loss of up to 700,000 construction jobs nationwide.
The current authorization of federal highway, public transit, highway safety, motor carrier safety, and hazardous safety programs expires Sept. 30, 2014. This bill would extend the programs through May 2015 at the fiscal year 2014 funding levels. The bill provides a total of $35.3 billion for highway, public transit, and surface transportation programs, including:
» $27.2 billion for federal-aid highway programs
» $7.1 billion for public transit programs
» $452.7 million for highway safety programs
» $380.8 million for motor carrier safety programs
» $46.9 million for hazardous material safety programs
“The Highway Trust Fund is critical to maintaining our local roads, highways, and mass transit systems,” Capps said. “While I am disappointed we could not come together to find a long-term solution and instead are addressing yet another critical issue at the last possible moment, I am happy that we have voted to support hundreds of thousands of jobs and to maintain the safety of our roads and bridges. Going forward we must come together to find a bipartisan, long term solution that ensures the Highway Trust Fund is properly funded into the future.”
In California, federal transportation funding goes to the state, who then distributes the money to the localities managing the projects. This year, California is expected to receive $3.6 billion in federal highway funding and $1.2 billion in federal transit funding, representing 50 percent of California’s state highway capital budget.
In Santa Barbara County, one example of a project that could have been impacted by the loss of Highway Trust Fund reimbursement is the Cathedral Oaks Road Bridge replacement. If the project had been halted during construction due to funding issues, the work within the creek would have remained incomplete and permit conditions would have been impossible to adhere to. Non-compliance to permit conditions can result in fines by regulatory agencies and right of way delays from the contractors. If the project had been delayed through multiple seasons, it could have had additional permit-related costs in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Moreover, the impacts on the traveling public would have been severe. Between 10,000 and 12,000 cars pass through the bridge intersection daily. Delays during peak hour and emergencies for a prolonged period would seriously impact quality of life for the community. Also, prolonging the duration of the traffic control measures with a shutdown would continue the public inconvenience for an unspecified time frame. Depending on the stage of construction and possible configuration, this could have necessitated installing traffic signals until the funding was resolved.
If that project had been halted, the water supply to Goleta also could have been in jeopardy due to the lack of redundancy and the current drought conditions in California. In addition, winterization and demobilization/remobilization costs and construction site maintenance would have to be paid. This, in addition to the other costs, could have meant a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding, resulting in loss of staff or inability to provide other services with these funds.
In Orcutt, the replacement of the Black Road Bridge could have been impacted, which would have caused similar issues. The current bridge is a 78-foot long, 30-foot wide, reinforced concrete slab bridge supported by treated timber piles. The roadway serves as a major connector for the western portions of Orcutt and Santa Maria, and is an access route for Vandenberg Air Force Base. If the project had been stopped because of lack of funding, it would have incurred significant additional delays and costs to demobilize and remobilize and likely would have been extended into a two-season project, impacting many commuters.
In San Luis Obispo County, two construction projects could have been cut off – the replacement of the Main Street Bridge and the bridge painting contract. That would have been roughly $2.5 million of contracting invoice at risk and would’ve been damaging to any small agency without reserves.
— Chris Meagher is the press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.