Shortfall in federal funding putting new roads, bridges at risk

2013-04-09T14:11:00Z 2013-04-10T09:48:04Z Shortfall in federal funding putting new roads, bridges at riskLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 09, 2013 2:11 pm  • 

PORTAGE | Federal funding shortfalls of about $74 million for already approved road and bridge projects in Northwest Indiana may lead to “a Soviet-like system” for regulating who gets what built and when, an NIRPC official said at Tuesday’s transportation policy committee meeting.

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission Transportation Projects Manager Gary Evers delivered a mixed bag of information during his quarterly project-tracking report. His comment about setting up a “Soviet-like system” of deciding what gets built caused a stir of conversation in the room.

Currently, 18 projects in Lake and Porter counties have been scheduled for letting or bid solicitations beginning in October and continuing through May 2015. Those 18 projects account for 80 percent of the available $64.8 million in funding.

“That’s a new record for us,” Evers said.

Another $800,000 is earmarked for bicycle/pedestrian projects and an additional $400,000 for the Livable Centers Pilot Project NIRPC is undertaking.

Twelve additional transportation projects in the pipeline are being allotted $2.3 million in available funds. However, those 12 projects represent some $36 million in unfunded liabilities, Evers said.

A new set of eight projects accepted for funding have less $1.38 million in federal funding allocated, with another $37.9 in unfunded liabilities.

“I am very concerned about the unfunded $74 million. That’s 6-1/2 years of our dollars to build these projects. It may be 2019 to 2020 until we will be able to build these projects,” Evers said.

“We’re moving from $64 million down to $26 million (in federal funding),” he said. “That means people may not get to letting (and building) these projects when they want because of fiscal constraints.”

It will take cooperation between stakeholders, communities and organizations to get the funding, Evers said.

He predicted that no bid solicitations will go out for these additional projects in the next two years and only possibly in the next four years.

NIRPC will continue to ask for projects to be put on the list, so there’s an ongoing list when funds become available, Evers said.

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