Congress unlikely to have a new road funding program in place this year, S.D. officials say

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Congress will need to pass a temporary resolution in the next few weeks to continue delivering federal highway aid to states, because there isn’t a deal yet on replacing the program that expires September 30, members of the South Dakota Transportation Commission learned Thursday.

“We will not see anything any time soon,” state Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said. The pace on a new transportation program has been slow, he said, as the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate haven’t found middle ground on additional COVID-19 aid, and their members are now in a recess.

The likely short-term fix, according to Bergquist, is Congress would keep highway funds flowing through the end of calendar 2020, possibly at the same levels as in the expiring FAST Act. The state Department of Transportation is budgeted to receive more than $389.5 million of federal funding during the current fiscal year that began July 1, including $347 million for construction projects.

Mike Behm, director of planning and engineering for the state department, agreed with the secretary’s perspective. “We do have a pretty firm understanding there will be a continuing resolution and the (federal) government won’t shut down October 1,” Behm said.

“How long can we go if there’s no (federal) money?” the commission’s chairman, Mike Vehle of Mitchell, wondered. Behm wasn’t sure but said he was “comfortable” the current projects will be reimbursed.   

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