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Brown: Congress must act quickly

Following an emergency meeting today to discuss the impact of the current shutdown of federal highway and transit programs, state transportation officials called the action “a bad situation and it’s only going to get worse.”

WASHINGTON — At a news conference held in conjunction with the annual Washington Briefing of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), leaders from across the country spoke out on the issue.

“If you do the math, we’re talking about more than $153 million a day in lost reimbursement payments for highway projects to the states,” said Larry L. “Butch” Brown, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation and AASHTO president. “Congress has to move quickly to correct this by passing legislation and getting it signed into law. This is a bad situation and it’s only going to get worse.”  

On Sunday, February 28, the current extension of the surface transportation program expired, leading to a shutdown in reimbursements to states for highway projects and transit programs administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).  According to FHWA, the shutdown means that $768 million in highway outlays and $157 million in transit outlays for the week ending March 5th could be affected. On Tuesday, an estimated 4,000 federal highway transit and safety personnel must be furloughed, putting a halt to federal project approvals, safety enforcement and transit starts.

“The timing could not be worse for a lot of reasons,” said Susan Martinovich, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation and AASHTO vice president. “States need every dollar they can get to improve our aging roads and bridges and put people to work. My home state of Nevada has the nation’s seventh-highest unemployment rate at 10.4 percent. We should be awarding contracts for spring construction right now, but instead many states are forced to delay and in some cases cancel projects.  Congress must act quickly to solve this problem.”

AASHTO officials are joined by more than 200 state transportation leaders from 36 states and the District of Columbia at the AASHTO Briefing being held in Arlington, Virginia, from March 1 – 3.

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