U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has called on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the state Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to unlock more than $7.8 million in previously secured federal funds for 22 transportation projects in the mid-Hudson region.
Schumer explained in a press release that a newly enacted law now gives FHWA and NYSDOT the authority to repurpose any unspent money to newer projects nearby that are needed, but the money has yet to be released.
Some highway funding was secured for road projects that have already been completed or are now no longer needed. In many cases, only a small portion of the funds were spent on the original project, and, until now, federal rules blocked the reuse of funds even if the project was no longer needed or part of a wider plan.
Schumer said many of proposed projects are within 50 miles of the original projects.
David Church, Orange County planning commissioner, sent a letter on Aug. 16 to Ron Epstein, director of the policy and planning division at the state Department of Transportation, to make available repurposed earmark funding for three projects in the county.
The reconstruction of Grove Drive Bridge in Tuxedo, scheduled for completion in 2017, needs $1 million ($800,000 from federal sources and $200,000 from local sources) to be completed.
Funding in the amount of $200,000 for the repaving of Sleepy Hollow Road has been requested by the Town of Deerpark.
The Town of Wallkill has requested that the repaving of State Route 17K, between the Sullivan County line and Bullville, be considered for funding.
“We have the means to unlock this money, and the FHWA and NYSDOT should swiftly approve requests from local communities to re-allocate these funds, so we can put them towards other forward-looking local projects,” Schumer wrote.
Church compiled comments from municipalities in the county about other infrastructure requests. “A majority of sponsors are requesting that earmark funds be repurposed within their municipality,” Church stated in his letter to Epstein.
In 2015, Schumer secured a provision in the omnibus spending bill–the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016–that allows states to repurpose unspent federal funds originally earmarked for specific purposes more than 10 years ago, where at least 90 percent of the funds remained unspecified.
Funding earmarked for repurposing federal aid projects is available for projects not listed as a project by state DOTs, according to an FHWA earmark repurposing FAQ. The funding is available for projects in the same geographic area as the original earmark under the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program or the Territorial and Puerto Rico Highway Program.
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