As Federal Highway Funding Stalls, VTrans Makes Contingency Plan
Transportation Secretary Sue Minter says she is incredibly frustrated that Congress will not pass a long-term transportation bill. Minter is putting a contingency plan in place to ensure that Vermont's summer construction projects can stay on schedule.
It's very likely that Congress this week will pass a two-month extension of the Federal Highway Trust Fund bill. It marks the second time in the last nine months that Congress has voted for this kind of extension.
Congressman Peter Welch voted against the plan, because he says these short-term fixes are unfair to state transportation officials.
"They have to have some security that the money is going to be there in order to enter into a one-, two- or three-year contract for bridge construction, for example,” Welch says. “So the irony here is that by Congress refusing to do our job, we're actually increasing uncertainty and expense to our local transportation folks.”
Welch says the extension plan is being used because Republican leaders cannot agree on a long-term revenue source for the Highway Trust Fund. Welch says he's willing to consider a number of options, including an increase in the gas tax.
"The irony here is that by Congress refusing to do our job, we're actually increasing uncertainty and expense to our local transportation folks." - Rep. Peter Welch
"Whenever members of the Legislative body have to vote on revenues, they get anxious. But on the other hand, folks understand that potholes don't fix themselves,” Welch says. “And I've indicated to the Speaker [of the House John Boehner], look, I will be flexible on what that revenue source is, but you've got to give us an opportunity to really seriously fund our infrastructure needs."
Vermont Transportation Secretary Sue Minter says she's frustrated by Congress and she's taking steps to ensure that over 100 construction projects in Vermont stay on schedule this summer.
"We do not want to hold our economy hostage,” Minter says. “We've got thousands of jobs tied up in these very important projects that communities have been waiting for getting their roads, their bridges fixed. And we're going to keep going forward because we do believe Congress will not leave us hanging."
"We've got thousands of jobs tied up in these very important projects that communities have been waiting for getting their roads, their bridges fixed. And we're going to keep going forward." - Sue Minter, Vermont Transportation Secretary
If there is an interruption of federal transportation funds, Minter says her agency can borrow money from the Vermont Treasurer's office to meet its short-term needs.
"We have a solid cash flow situation with our treasury, and we know we can borrow for some period of time if in fact the feds cannot pay us,” Minter says.
The House approved the two-month extension on Tuesday afternoon and the Senate is scheduled to consider the measure later this week.