Bridge maintenance has been postponed on metro Atlanta interstates. Repaving state highways in Cobb and Douglas counties also is on hold. So are road and bridge projects in DeKalb, Henry and Paulding counties.
Those are some of the two dozen projects the Georgia Department of Transportation has postponed because of the federal government budget stalemate. And more Georgia road projects could be affected if the gridlock in Washington drags on much longer.
In January, GDOT postponed $32 million worth of road resurfacing and maintenance projects for lack of federal funding. For February, it’s delaying an additional $60 million worth of resurfacing, bridge maintenance and other projects.
“We’re moving forward (with some construction),” GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said Thursday. “We’re just not moving forward as quickly as we’d like.”
GDOT expects to receive about $1.2 billion in federal funding for the fiscal year that ends in September. The ongoing stalemate over border security has not directly affected funding for road work in Georgia — the Federal Highway Administration is still operating. But McMurry said the lack of an approved annual budget has slowed the normal flow of federal funding to a trickle.
McMurry said GDOT has received only $115 million since the government shutdown began last month. That’s not enough to sustain the usual pace of road work for an agency that puts more than $100 million worth of contracts out to bid each month.
GDOT can still move forward with state-funded projects. But if Congress and President Donald Trump can’t reach a deal soon to fully fund the federal government for the rest of the year, it could limit the summer road construction season.
“We’re starting to look at what summer construction season looks like,” GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said. “This timeline is heavily dependent on (contracts) being let in January, February, March.”
The delays are not lost on two members of Georgia’s congressional delegation who serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, blamed Trump for the standoff, in its fifth week and now the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. He said he feared the number of delayed road projects could double if the budget is not resolved.
“Just as the president called on states to be better partners on transportation and infrastructure issues, I would ask the president to do the same,” he said. “Georgia is doing its part, and he should do his.”
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, said Democrats are the main obstacle to a budget deal.
“As a senior Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I can assure (Georgians) that every penny allocated toward Georgia infrastructure will be paid in full,” Woodall said. “It’s a question of ‘when,’ not a question of ‘if.’ In order for this to happen, the Democrats must be willing to come to the table.”
So far the shutdown has affected road work in 20 Georgia counties. Among the projects postponed:
- Bridge maintenance at five locations each on I-20, I-75 and I-285 in Fulton County.
- Resurfacing I-75 northbound from Ga. 36 to Ga. 155 in Butts, Henry and Spalding counties.
- Bridge maintenance on I-75 in each direction at the Ga. 5 Connector in Cobb County.
- Resurfacing Ga. 92 from Ga. 6 to Old Burnt Hickory Road in Cobb and Paulding counties.
- Bridge maintenance on Ga. 12 at Snapfinger Creek in DeKalb County.
None of the projects have been canceled, and they could go out to bid when regular U.S. Transportation Department funding resumes. But Dale said more projects could be put on hold if the budget impasse isn’t resolved soon.
Dale said the delays affect the quality of life of commuters.
“Something as simple as a resurfacing can make a big difference for people,” she said. “Driving to work on a well-paved road can really make a big difference.”
Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.
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