CHEYENNE – A long-term, bipartisan surface transportation bill, passed by Congress, Thursday, Dec. 3, would increase federal aid for highway work in Wyoming over the next five years.
The measure, titled, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, is now awaiting a signature by President Barack Obama.
Preliminary estimates indicate Wyoming would receive $271 million annually through 2020 in highway program apportionments. By comparison, Wyoming is receiving $247 million this year.
“The increase will help us preserve what we have invested in our highway system over the last few years and make our highways safer.” – WYDOT Interim Director Bill Panos.
Panos added that it looks like a good portion of the funding increase to Wyoming provided by the FAST Act will occur as soon as the upcoming fiscal year, and WYDOT already has projects ready to go when those funds become available.
The FAST Act will also serve to bump transit funding to Wyoming up to an average $12 million per year from $10.9 million.
The enactment of the FAST Act is the first time since 2005 that Congress has been able to pass a multi-year transportation bill. This situation will give WYDOT a much greater level of stability and certainty in the project design and development process.
The prior long-term bill expired in 2009, and Congress passed a series of short-term extensions before lawmakers produced a two-year bill (MAP-21) in 2012 that has also been extended several times since it initially expired.
The FAST Act authorizes about $226 billion in federal-aid highway spending over the next five years nationally, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
That amount includes nearly $11 billion for two new freight-focused programs, plus $8 billion for highway safety programs at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and more than $61 billion for transit.
An important feature of the bill is that it continues to allocate about 93 percent of federal-aid highway dollars through the pre-set formulas that help give Wyoming and other states control of their project funding stream.
The FAST Act emerged quickly from a House-Senate conference committee that negotiated differences between separate bills passed in each chamber.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming was a member of that committee and was successful in including key provisions in the bill that provide regulatory relief and flexibility for rural states like Wyoming.
Panos thanked Sen. Barrasso for his leadership in developing the FAST legislation, and also Sen. Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis for their support in ensuring the bill’s passage.