Top 10? Try Bottom of the Barrel. States Ranked by Infrastructure Woes

The Fiscal Times recently published a ‘ten states with the worst highway spending woes’ article to help people understand the consequences of congressional inaction on the Highway Trust Fund. Congress can't agree on what action to take, from a six-year, $100 billion comprehensive plan, to a patchwork $9 to $10 billion short-term plan.  

The uncertainty of the situation is jeopardizing future projects and 700,000 jobs.

At a recent breakfast with reporters, New York Senator Chuck Schumer expressed consternation, saying, “At the end of the day, I think it would be a disaster to let the trust fund run out.  It would stop all highway projects. Amazingly enough, the chances of getting it done are iffy.”

The idea of moving transportation projects forward without the promise of reimbursement from the federal government has many states walking on infrastructural eggshells. Take Arkansas, for example, which FT ranks as having the worst highway spending woes:

Ten highway and bridge projects valued at $60 million have been postponed in Arkansas, including two bridge replacements in Pulaski County and one in Garland County. Arkansas has the 12th largest highway system in the U.S., yet it ranks just 44th in federal and state revenues to support it, according to Stateline. One GOP state legislator said Arkansas probably has $120 million worth of projects on the drawing boards, but it can’t bid them out “because there’s no guarantee” of reimbursements.

After the March announcement of the postponement, Senator John Boozman told KARK:

“Congress needs to revamp the funding mechanism to the Highway Trust Fund so the Arkansas Highway Department can support the infrastructure needs of our state and plan for future projects.”

“The reality is that an empty trust fund won’t be good for our economy. I’m committed to working with everyone involved to find a reasonable answer.”

In the Pacific Northwest, the ill-fated Columbia River crossing has come to a halt and money has been redistributed to other projects.  FT ranks Oregon fourth worst off:

This $3.5 billion proposal to replace the Columbia River Bridge that connects Portland, OR, to a suburb of Vancouver, WA, was laid to rest recently after the state legislature and the governor of Washington State couldn’t reach a compromise to provide state matching funds. But any hope of reviving the project was dashed after Oregon officials – worried about the uncertainty over the highway trust fund – decided to use federal funds once meant for the Columbia River Crossing to finance eight much smaller projects.

Not only major highway projects are in danger of being postponed.  A plan to create more bus lanes in Columbus, Ohio, which would alleviate heavy traffic, could now be on the cutting block. Ohio stands at seventh worst according to FT:

It is often hard to get around Columbus, Ohio, the seat of state government and home to Ohio State University, because of a bus shortage. To alleviate that, the Central Ohio Transit Authority has proposed adding 29 new buses to its current fleet in 2015. Area residents supported a sales tax to help fund the expansion, but the transit authority is counting on federal matching funds to buy many of the  new buses. Good luck on that.

Perhaps without surprise, the most populated state in the U.S. made the undesirable cut as well.  Bolstering of transportation systems in California, which ranks 8th on the list, has traditionally been easy to secure funding for:

Because this state is so big and populous – and amply represented on key transportation committees in Congress – California has long enjoyed plenty of federal highway and transit aid. But the trust fund crisis could jeopardize $2 billion worth of construction involving 250 state-sponsored rehabilitation projects and hundreds of other local street and road repairs, according to the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.  The loss or delay of all those projects could cost the state roughly 62,400 jobs.

Peruse the rest of Fiscal Times‘ list here.

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