CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 200 road projects that are underway now in West Virginia could be in jeopardy if members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives do not find a way to replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund before the start of August.
Nationally, the shortfall for the current fiscal year is estimated at between $8 billion and $9 billion and that amount includes millions of federal dollars for road construction and maintenance projects in the Mountain State that are already under contract.
Mike Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, said — if the federal funding is not there, as scheduled, next month — contractors will have two options. The first of those options would lead to layoffs.
“We can just shut the jobs down until this issue is resolved and, when Congress does provide additional funds to the state, then we will resume those projects,” he explained. “The second option that contractors will have is to continue working on the projects, but to accept about 50 cents on the dollar of what they are owed.”
Clowser said getting help from the state Division of Highways — even temporarily — is not one of the options for a reason. “The department is just so cash-strapped that we do not have that ability to transfer out other funds into the federal funding deficit,” he said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
That is not the case everywhere.
“Other states are not having this problem,” Clowser said. “Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, other states have a sufficient funding mechanism for their state highway programs and they’re just planning on using their state dollars to make up the difference until the federal issue is resolved.”
Members of the U.S. Senate were reportedly working Wednesday on a way to fill the budget hole before the Highway Trust Fund goes bankrupt.
On Thursday, meanwhile, members of the House Ways and Means Committee were scheduled to start working on a $10 billion bipartisan plan that would fund transportation projects through May 2015 — allowing time for the development of long-term solutions for the Highway Trust Fund’s ongoing money problems.
Last year, West Virginia received about $400 million in federal highway dollars from the Highway Trust Fund.