The good news: Federal stimulus could bring $213 million to transportation fund
PIERRE -- South Dakota's Department of Transportation could see a one-time boost of as much as $213 million in federal funding as part of the economic stimulus package being assembled by Congress and President Obama's administration, Deputy Secre...
PIERRE -- South Dakota's Department of Transportation could see a one-time boost of as much as $213 million in federal funding as part of the economic stimulus package being assembled by Congress and President Obama's administration, Deputy Secretary Kevin Tveidt said Thursday.
He told members of the state Transportation Commission that the amounts, details, timetables and regulations remain in a state of flux that changes daily. The target is for Congress to put the legislation on the president's desk no later than Feb. 16.
South Dakota wouldn't need to provide state funds as a match to qualify for the extra federal aid, according to Tveidt. The federal highway program typically requires state or local matching funds on many projects.
DOT's 2009 budget of $490 million includes $310 million of federal funding and $184 million of funding collected from South Dakota motorists in taxes and fees. The federal stimulus aid would be in addition to that. There could be extra money for airports and mass transit, too, according to Tveidt.
Construction firms have the capacity for a big burst of new projects, said Toby Crow, executive director for the Associated General Contractors highway chapter. He said they can take on at least $150 million and should be able to handle $200 million-plus.
Crow said the difficulty they face is not knowing where to begin locating equipment and stockpiling supplies. He said a list of possible projects would be helpful.
"We'd sure like DOT to release the list and put a caveat on it that there's nothing guaranteed," Crow said. "Right now we don't know what to do."
Joel Jundt, DOT's director for planning and engineering, said developing a solid list of projects is difficult at this point because the final rules and requirements aren't known.
If half of the extra funding needs to be spent within 90 to 120 days, for example, resurfacing projects would be a higher priority than major construction projects, which involve re-grading. That's because resurfacing of existing roads doesn't face as many environmental- and cultural-protection regulations.
DOT has also requested suggestions from larger cities and counties.
Commission member Jim Spies of Watertown questioned why DOT is withholding the list of potential projects while other states are doing it.
"They'd at least know they might be interested in jumping in on a bid somewhere," Spies said.
Jundt said the list will be distributed in "the next week or so."
"We are a little bit skeptical about putting a list out there and then it's gospel and half of them don't meet the requirements," Jundt said.