The Federal Highway Administration has issued its latest "obligation limitation" notice to state departments of transportation, allowing them access to an additional $5 billion in project funding authority for federal-aid highway programs.
That allows state DOTs to use the prorated portion of their authorized funds from the Oct. 1 start of the 2018 fiscal year through March 23, when the latest congressional stopgap funding measure is scheduled to expire.
But the partial-year funding under the notice continues at 2017 levels since Congress has not yet passed a full-year appropriations bill for fiscal 2018. In its 2015, five-year highway program authorization, Congress authorized moderate annual increases that would let DOTs nationwide share about $1 billion more once lawmakers approve 2018 appropriations.
Lawmakers recently passed a two-year budget agreement to set higher spending limits on government programs for 2018 and 2019, but appropriators need to act on the details. So Congress also voted to extend funding at 2017 levels until March 23.
Once Congress passes a final spending bill, state DOTs will presumably be able to access all their scheduled 2018 highway appropriations after the FHWA issues another distribution notice.
The FHWA's previous short-term funding notice, which it issued Feb. 2 to distribute funding authority through Feb. 8, had provided state DOTs and other recipients with almost $15.423 billion of total highway project obligation authority since Oct. 1. Its latest notice provides them access to nearly $20.485 billion.
State DOT officials have warned that the series of stopgap funding bills over the past five months has created a start-stop flow of federal highway funds that is delaying states from awarding bids for some planned projects.
Along with its latest notice, the FHWA released a table showing how much federal-aid highway funding each state can now obligate to pay for projects.
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