KULR: Deadline for Road Construction Funding Friday, Could Halt Projects

BILLINGS – Summer is construction season across the state, but that could be put on hold.

Right now, Washington is in a standoff over transportation issues, which include paying to fix roads and bridges. The deadline for the decision is in three days.

The House has accepted a five-month extension but the senate is hoping to get a six-year solution done by the deadline on Friday.

“Infrastructure is an investment, not an expense. Longer term highway bill that is payed for and prioritized is certainly at the top of my list,” said Representative Ryan Zinke.

The Senate wants to deal with the issue once and for all with a six-year, 350 billion dollar plan, but only half of the plan currently is funded.

“This bill will allow us to continue to improve our infrastructure. 60-percent of the goods that are shipped in and out of Montana are traveled by truck across Montana highways so it is very important to Montana’s economy,” said Senator Steve Daines.

Mike Toole, the director of the Montana department of transportation, says the long-term deal is preferable because construction projects in Montana require long-term planning.

“The situation we find ourselves in is some of the major projects now are waiting for the end of the construction year. It slows them down by an entire year. Even though we’re going to get these bids out the actual work won’t be done when we wanted to get it done,” said Toole.

The House won’t even consider the Senate’s proposal. Congress has passed 33 temporary extensions in the last six years, and they want another five-month extension.

Senator Daines says the long-term bill is all about providing certainty.

The Montana Department of Transportation tries to have 85-percent of their projects contracted out by spring. But without proper funding they won’t be able to set up the projects they want to in enough time.

This could have a big effect on Montana. According to the U.S Department of Transportation more than half of the roads in the state are in poor or mediocre condition.