Could a Congressional Showdown Crash Texas Transportation Projects?

Mar 29, 2012

A dispute over federal transportation funding has some state and local governments worried. But the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDot) says if funding dries up, Texas can float construction costs for up to three months.

The U.S. Senate passed a $109 billion transportation bill nearly two weeks ago. But since then, the measure has garnered little traction in the House, as Republican legislators have rallied behind an alternate budget with deeper spending cuts, according to Washington DC journal The Hill.

As of this writing, the House just passed a 90-day extension of transportation funding. Should the Senate approve the same measure, it will prevent federal funds from hitting the skids this Saturday.

The uncertainty surrounding transportation spending is making several governments nervous. With several transit projects underway, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has called for passage of the Senate bill. In Missouri, the Department of Transportation has warned it might have to cancel its annual round of bidding on projects.

But here in Texas, TXDot spokesperson Karen Amacker says “We actually expect it won’t have any impact.”

Amacker cites TXDot’s ability to issue short-term debt (or commercial paper), to finance construction should federal funding halt.

“By using those debt instruments, we think that Texas will be able to cover projects’ costs for about three months, while still remaining a responsible steward of taxpayer resources. So at this time, we really don’t anticipate any delays or setbacks for our ongoing construction efforts."