Unless the US Congress can come to an agreement on a stalled extension of a transportation spending bill, nearly 9000 Utahns could lose their federally funded jobs.
HR662, The Surface Transportation Act, which divides federal fuel tax dollars for use in individual states on individual projects, will expire at the end of September. Utah uses these federal tax dollars to fund transit projects and road construction.
The Obama administration is concerned partisan politics could stop the flow of money, resulting in lost jobs, shutting down projects, and an increase in mass transit fares, including TRAX, FrontRunner, and UTA buses.
Nationally, the White House estimates 847,000 jobs could be lost and 140,000 projects would stop. In Utah, 8,910 people could lose their jobs, 41 transit projects and 787 highway projects would abruptly end. The country could lose and never recover nearly $1 billion in highway funding.
Currently, the state is awaiting reimbursement for the TRAX mid-Jordan extension and the FrontRunner commuter rail line between Ogden and Salt Lake City. These federal funds total $130 million. The Utah Transit Authority is also expecting another $50 million during this fiscal year in annual funding.
Carlos Braceras, the Utah Department of Transportation’s executive director told the Salt Lake Tribune he estimates there are around 200 projects that could be affected, somewhat less than the number released by the White House. UDOT must complete road projects before the weather changes and makes construction difficult if not impossible.
The legislation is not currently scheduled for a vote. The President urged Congress to pass the legislation quickly, and warned of the dire consequences of allowing it to lapse. He plans to introduce his jobs plan on Thursday (tonight), creating employment through the construction of roads and repair of infrastructure.
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Source: Salt Lake Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, US House of Representatives
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