By Dean Franks, senior vice president of congressional relations, ARTBA
State and local transportation agencies now can access their share of $10 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. Unlike most federal-aid highway investment, however, the agencies can use these funds for a wide variety of purposes beyond construction projects, including operations and administrative costs. Because of this unique latitude, ARTBA encourages its members and chapters to stay in close contact with their state officials and transportation departments (DOTs) to urge these funds be used for capital investment to the greatest extent possible.
The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Jan. 15 notification includes its initial interpretation of permissible uses for these funds and a state-by-state funding breakdown. These resources will remain available until Sept. 30, 2024, and do not require matching funds from the states. Urban areas with populations of 200,000 or more will receive $1.4 billion of the $10 billion.
ARTBA and its allies, including the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), began advocating for short-term state DOT relief once the pandemic’s impacts became clear. Congress provided these funds in its December 2020 COVID relief package.
ARTBA will track the use of these funds nationwide and keep in close contact with FHWA. Agency officials have said they are open to answering questions or providing more information. ARTBA will report any additional FHWA guidance.