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Washington getting $4.8M from other states’ unspent highway and bridge project earmarks from the 2003-06 period

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Aug. 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
August 20, 2012 4:03 pm

Last week’s news that the federal Department of Transportation has about $473 million in turned-back earmarks money means about $1.8 million for Washington state projects and another $3 million for local projects in the Evergreen State. No projects are in the Olympia area but freight mobility work in the FAST Corridor serving the Tacoma-Seattle-Everett area is on the list of previously earmarked jobs that could get extra money.

And the money announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is separate from two other Washington projects that the Obama administration said today it wants to speed up – a Point Defiance rail-bypass project valued at $89 million in Tacoma and a $3.5 billion bridge replacement over the Columbia River along Interstate 5.

Connie Rus, a spokeswoman for the Washington state DOT, said the exact use of the turned-back earmarks money is still being worked out.

The federal agency’s breakdown of extra payments by state is here and the federal DOT’s press release is here. All of the unspent earmarks were from the 2003-06 period.

About 19 state projects already on the earmarks list from that time period could be eligible for extra money, according to Rus. That list includes an access road project in Grays Harbor County at Satsop, which has an industrial park, and other projects in Bellingham and the Tri-Cities.

Most are local or partnership projects although two are  state only – one in Pend Oreille dealing with State Route 31 and one involving State Routes 509/518 in Burien.

The extra funds were not part of the federal stimulus, which is a much larger allocation that this money allocated to specific projects by Congress. McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington, D.C., bureau reports that the government has paid out $36 billion in highway projects since 2009 under the stimulus which had authorized nearly $48 billion for road and bridge projects.

In an email response to a reporter’s questions, Rus said the state agency is going through the numbers and trying to determine later this week where the extra cash would go:

WSDOT has reviewed the old list of 19 earmarked projects and we are moving forward on the assumption that the funds will be split between both state and local projects. Based on the projects that were identified as contributing the unspent funds we assume $1.8 million will be available to the state and $3 million to locals. … WSDOT staff will continue to work on a plan for how funds will be spent but our general approach to using the funds will be to first make them available to locations for which the original earmark was intended if there is still unfunded priority work to be completed (in some situations the project has already been completed and there is simply some leftover earmark money). In some cases, we received an earmark that was not fully funded (i.e. the earmark was not enough to deliver the full project). In other cases, we had been looking for a title change on the earmark to be able to complete delivery of the work. We hope to have refined plans for delivery this week. As a reminder planned use of these funds requires FHWA approval.

So once again, stay tuned.

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