DOT Announces Procedures for Repurposing $2.0 Billion in Highway Money From “Dead Earmarks”

March 10, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced the procedures for allowing states to redistribute almost $2 billion in highway funding from “dead earmarks” made by Congress in old surface transportation authorization or appropriations bills. States and territories will have until September 30, 2016 to redesignate some $1.958 billion in funding for new projects, which must then be legally obligated by the end of fiscal 2019.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that “This is a tremendous opportunity for state and local governments to work together to identify their needs heading into the next 30 years. I encourage these leaders to identify innovative projects that reconnect their communities and increase access to jobs, education, and basic services.”

To qualify as a “dead earmark,” funds must have been provided by legislation that was at least 10 years old and for which less than 10 percent of the funding originally provided had actually been obligated (both measurements were against the date of enactment of the fiscal 2016 appropriations act for USDOT which contained the language mandating the earmark repurposing – December 18, 2015).

USDOT reports that $1.906 billion in earmarks from SAFETEA-LU and previous authorization laws, as well as $51.9 million in earmarks from old appropriations bills, met the criteria. (Ed. Note: It’s not that the appropriators necessarily picked better, easier-to-complete projects, it’s more that the appropriators get one must-pass bill every year that can be used to repurpose their old earmarks that went wrong.)

Under the terms of the law, the repurposed money “shall be applied to projects within the same general geographic area within 50 miles for which the funding was designated, except that a State or territory may apply such authority to unexpended balances of funds from projects or activities the State or territory certifies have been closed and for which payments have been made under a final voucher.”

Naturally, the $1.958 billion is not distributed evenly, or even rationally, across the country – it depends on which states were good at getting earmarks in the first place and then bad at implementing the projects. Over half of the money is concentrated in just eight states (but North Dakota and Wyoming got zero). Here are the top ten:

New York $207.6 million
Georgia $166.0 million
California $148.7 million
New Jersey $116.8 million
Pennsylvania $101.3 million
Massachusetts $98.6 million
Alabama $90.4 million
Connecticut $82.6 million
Illinois $72.6 million
Virginia $71.2 million

A better way to look at this might be how does the new FY 2016 money from dead earmarks compare to a state’s total spendable highway formula apportionment for 2016 (measured as highway formula obligation limitation plus post-sequestration exempt NHPP contract authority). The nationwide average was a boost of 5.2 percent. Here are the 10 states that get the biggest boost and the ten states with the smallest:

Connecticut +17.5% Wyoming +0.0%
Massachusetts +16.9% North Dakota +0.0%
Nebraska +15.3% Colorado +0.002%
Georgia +13.4% West Virginia +0.1%
New York +12.8% Montana +0.2%
Alabama +12.4% Wisconsin +0.4%
New Jersey +12.2% Kansas +0.5%
Alaska +11.3% Oregon +0.6%
Tennessee +8.0% Oklahoma +0.7%
Louisiana +7.7% Arizona +0.7%

ETW has assembled a one-page table with each state’s totals, here. The Federal Highway Administration webpage with the full information, including a spreadsheet listing each project, is here.

Search Eno Transportation Weekly

Latest Issues

Happening on the Hill


Related Articles

DOT Establishes Multimodal Freight Office

December 1, 2023 - The U.S. Department of Transportation this week announced the establishment of its new Office of Multimodal...

Govt. Shutdown Now Postponed to Jan.-Feb.

November 17, 2023 - The earliest that the federal government will close for a lapse-of-appropriations shutdown is now January 19,...