March 12, 2013
We’ve received several questions about how the federal sequester affects ODOT and transportation projects, and with the Oregon Legislature approving a bill authorizing $450 million in bonds to pay the state’s share of the Columbia River Crossing
project people are also asking how that will affect financing for other highway infrastructure projects. Travis Brouwer, ODOT’s federal affairs advisor, offers the latest information.
What does the federal sequester mean for ODOT?
The federal sequester went into effect March 1. “Virtually all of the highway, transit, and safety programs funded from the Highway Trust Fund are exempted from the sequester,” Brouwer said. “So we don’t anticipate any significant impacts to our federal funding.”
However, Brouwer is quick to add some caveats. Several programs supported by the federal general fund are subject to the sequester, which will reduce funding for discretionary programs by about five percent in fiscal year 2013. For example, the multimodal TIGER program
, which has funded a number of projects across the state, would be hit by the sequester — assuming Congress funds the program this year. Similarly, the New Starts program
for fixed guideway transit systems, such as light rail in Portland and bus rapid transit in Eugene/Springfield, would also be affected.
Amtrak programs are subject to the sequester, but because Oregon and Washington cover the cost of the service from Eugene to Seattle and Vancouver, BC, there shouldn’t be any significant impacts.
How about the CRC bonding?
Principal and interest payments on the bonds will cost just under $28 million a year for 30 years; the payments must come from existing resources until new transportation funds are identified. The Oregon Legislatures has until 2015 to pass a funding package that would adopt new revenue to cover the Interstate 5 bridge project
“For 2013-2015, ODOT will apply unanticipated federal funds from the federal surface transportation authorization act, MAP-21
,” Brouwer explained. “No project that currently has funding allocated to it in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program will be affected.”
If lawmakers don’t approve new revenue to cover these costs in the long run, ODOT would cover debt service with federal highway formula funds that would otherwise be available for STIP projects. In the 2016-2018 period, this would reduce funding available for the Enhance program by about one third.
ODOT intends to move forward with its current plan for reviewing and selecting Enhance projects in conjunction with stakeholders. The Oregon Transportation Commission
is expected to consider approval of a draft project list before the end of the year.
Media inquiries can be directed to Patrick Cooney, (503) 986-3455.