States cite benefits, for the most part

News AASHTO August 15, 2005
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AASHTO leaders and other state transportation officials found much to praise in the reauthorization bill they have been waiting for almost two years, since the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century expired September 30, 2003.

Attending the signing ceremony on behalf of AASHTO were President Jack Lettiere, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation; Vice President Harold Linnenkohl, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation; AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley and Director of Management and Business Development Jack Basso.

Lettiere called SAFETEA-LU “a major boost in mobility for all Americans” and an aid to “accelerate needed transportation projects, save lives, improve people’s quality of life, create jobs and improve many ways we do business.”

Horsley, commenting on the jobs the legislation will create, said, “The work these newly employed Americans will do will get people home to their families faster, improve our economy and speed the movement of freight.”

The bill provides states with $197 billion in core formula program funds, an increase of 32% over TEA-21’s core program.

In South Carolina, State Department of Transportation Executive Director Elizabeth Mabry said the Palmetto state will receive 28% more in federal funding during the life of the legislation, which equates to roughly $2.9 billion. Overall, at the $286.4 billion level, SAFETEA-LU represents a 38% increase in guaranteed spending over TEA-21.

Mabry also noted that South Carolina will be receiving a 1.5-cent increase for every dollar collected from the state for the federal gas tax that is sent into the Highway Trust Fund. South Carolina is one of the “donor states” which stand to benefit from the change to the equity bonus formula under which states will be guaranteed a percentage return of Highway Trust Fund receipts, from 90.5% in 2005, to 92% in fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan told The Washington Post, “we are talking about projects that reach every corner of the state” and AAA Mid-Atlantic Manager of Public and Government Affairs Regina Averella said the funding is “a shot in the arm for our ailing highway and transit systems.”

Maryland is set to receive more than $4 billion under SAFETEA-LU and plans to build highways and upgrade its transit system through its Bi-County and Corridor Cities transit ways.

Together, Minnesota and North Dakota are scheduled to receive $5 billion through SAFETEA-LU, $3.5 billion for Minnesota and $1.5 billion for North Dakota. Of its share, North Dakota plans to use more than $165 million for specific highway and bridge construction projects, according to The Forum of Fargo, N.D. Most of Minnesota’s transportation projects are located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and the northeastern part of the state, the newspaper reports.

The Lawrence Journal-World of Kansas reported that the state did not fare well in SAFETEA-LU, even though the state is getting 19.3% more than in TEA-21. “I would have to confess I was taken aback when I saw our numbers,” Kansas Department of Transportation Secretary Deborah Miller told the Associated Press. “We did not do well in the bill, particularly not when you look at us five states, although KDOT continues to analyze the legislation and may have to put off projects from its 10-year highway improvement program.

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