SD funds could be cut back in federal transportation billSome money allocated to projects in South Dakota under a federal highway bill passed in 2005 could be rescinded, or clawed back, under a new bill working its way through Congress.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
Some money allocated to projects in South Dakota under a federal highway bill passed in 2005 could be rescinded, or clawed back, under a new bill working its way through Congress.
The Senate has passed its version of the bill on a 74-22 vote, which includes the provision to take back about $5 billion that remains unspent under the old bill, said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. He and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., voted to pass the bill.
“The last bill was 2005. It’s seven years later,” Thune said. “If it’s not used, in this budgetary environment we’re in, it’s a real temptation to try to rescind some of that back. Unspent discretionary funds sitting around become a big target.”
The U.S. House of Representatives would have to also pass the same provision in order for it to take effect. The House has resisted passing the Senate bill, but Congress must pass a new transportation bill before March 31 or federal transportation funding will end.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation sent letters to those managing projects that could be affected. Already, several have responded by taking the needed action to remove their projects from the cuts list.
The following projects remain vulnerable, although DOT officials said they, too, could take action to be removed from the list:
n Sioux Falls — $35 million for the proposed rail relocation as part of the Philips to the Falls project. Total project cost is estimated at $40 million.
n Pennington County — $8 million to reconstruct South Rochford Road from Rochford to Deerfield. An environmental impact statement is currently being completed for this project. Total project cost is $9 million.
n Brookings — $676,000 to construct a rail spur. Total project cost is $751,000.
n Huron — $495,000 for an access road along U.S. Highway 14 for the Dakota Turkey Plant.
n Sioux Falls — $283,000 to extend the bike trail at Great Bear Recreation Area. Total project cost is $961,000.
n Vermillion — $524,000 to construct a bike path. Total project cost is $751,000.
n Yankton — $163,000 for bike paths and pedestrian walkways.
n Mobridge — $60,000 remains from a $300,000 Riverfront Walk trail project.
n Aberdeen — $38,000 left over from construction of a bike path. Total project cost was $1 million.
Johnson recently sent a letter, along with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to House leaders asking them to pass the Senate bill, known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), which would extend current spending levels for two years and cost $109 billion.
“The reforms included in MAP-21 improve surface transportation programs by maintaining current funding levels for highways and public transportation, consolidating over two-thirds of all highway programs, eliminating earmarks, establishing a national freight program, improving safety oversight of public transportation, and instituting performance measures and accountability for transportation infrastructure investments. This bill is also fully paid for,” Johnson and Boxer wrote.
In a Wednesday teleconference with the media, Johnson said the stakes are high because more than 10,000 jobs in South Dakota depend on the legislation passing.
“The Senate has shown it can be done,” he said. “The House needs to do what is right and pass the bipartisan transportation bill.”
Johnson said the two-year extension in the Senate transportation bill is “as far as we can go with the money we have,” and decried talks of a short-term extension of a few months to put off the March 31 deadline.
A short-term extension does not give the U.S. Department of Transportation the certainty it needs to enter into large construction contracts, he said.
In a separate Wednesday teleconference with the media, Thune, who said the Senate transportation bill is “not ideal,” still he said he hopes the House will find a way to pass the bill or similar legislation.
— The Daily Republic’s Chris Mueller contributed to this report.