The District of Columbia and three states--Indiana, Colorado and Minnesota--would see the largest annual gains in federal highway funding under the five-year, $251-billion transportation bill that the Senate approved on May 17. Indiana would get an average of $968 million a year over the 2005-2009 span of the bill, up 46.7% from the yearly level under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. Colorado would receive $491 million a year, up 46.6%, and Minnesota's average would be $601 million annually, a gain of 46.2%. For a state-by-state breakdown of the allocations, click here.
Others scoring hikes of more than 40% are Vermont (42.3%) and Arizona (40.6%), according to calculations done by the Federal Highway Administration and made available by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The new bill boosts total average apportioned highway funding by 30.7% , so no state gets less than it did under TEA-21. But some states would post increases that pale beside those garnered by D.C., Indiana and the others in the 40-plus club. Those at the bottom of the chart are: Connecticut, Hawaii and Pennsylvania, each with a 15% average annual boost; New Hampshire, whose funds rise 15.4%; Wisconsin, up 17.7%, and New York, with a gain of 17.9%.
Before passing the measure, the Senate adopted an amendment that included $11.2 billion in additional funding beyond the $283.9 billion approved by the House April 2 in its version of the transportation bill. "I think [the Senate] tried to bring everybody up," says Pamela Whitted, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association vice president for government affairs. One aim, she adds, was "to bring more equity" to "donor" and "donee" states. Donors pay more fuel taxes into the Highway Trust Fund than they get back in federal highway aid, while donees are in the opposite position.
But Whitted says, "Some members of the Senate are not happy with what it does to their states' share....And I think that was reflected in their votes." The chamber passed the bill by a strong 86-11 vote, but those voting no included both senators from Wisconsin and New Hampshire, among the six states posting the smallest annual increases.
The FHWA table covers only those road funds that are apportioned to states by formula. Other highway aid in the bill is allocated at Dept. of Transportation's discretion, or in the case of money to construct roads on national parks and other federally owned land, administered directly by FHWA, not the states. The legislation also provides $46.6 billion over the five years for mass transit, and transit-heavy states such as New York and Pennsylvania would receive substantial shares of that.
States also pay keen attention on another way of looking at the highway funding split: how much highway aid they get compared to the amount of user taxes their motorists pay into the Highway Trust Fund. The newly passed Senate bill raises the minimum guaranteed return for donor states to 92% by 2009, from 90.5% under TEA-21. Eighteen states would get that 92% minimum. Donor-state senators from Texas and South Carolina were unhappy enough to vote no on the bill.
By comparison, in 2004 18 states received the 90.5% TEA-21 minimum.
Those donees reaping the biggest return on their user fees in the new bill include: Alaska, at $5.28 in 2009 for each tax dollar paid; D.C., at $4.83; Rhode Island, $2.30; Montana, $2.28; Vermont, $2.13; and North Dakota, at $2.08.
The Senate and House bills next would go into a conference to be reconciled. Whitted thinks conferees will have a difficult task, even at the Senate funding level, to provide donors and donees the equity both desire. "It's going to take a lot of skillful negotiation but we're very optimistic that it can be done."
Since TEA-21 expired Sept. 30, 2003, federal highway and transit programs have been running under a series of six extensions. The latest such stopgap runs out May 31. With a congressional Memorial Day recess scheduled to start May 28, a seventh extension "is inevitable," Whitted says. "I think everybody's coalescing around one month" as the length of a new extension.