Proposed federal legislation could bring millions of federal dollars to Wyoming to help the state maintain its highways.
The Fixing American Surface Transportation Act — called the FAST Act — is a $287 billion highway transportation package that just cleared a U.S. Senate committee by a vote of 21-0. The bill calls for a 27 percent increase in funding for the nation’s highways over the next five years.
Wyoming now receives about $285 million in federal money per year to maintain its highways. The FAST Act would increase that funding by 2 percent in the bill’s first year and by 1 percent each year for the following four.
Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, said the extra cash would be a benefit for Wyoming, given shortfalls it sees now in highway funds.
“We’re about $135 million short in unfunded needs per year …” he said. “So certainly the 2 percent, 1 percent you talk about would add $15 million or $20 million. That would certainly go toward our focus on maintaining our infrastructure.
The act would also streamline some regulations the department must now comply with, Reiner said, such as required traffic congestion studies.
“It’s in the federal rule that says we need to count the cars … somewhere between Casper and Cody at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday morning,” he said. “We don’t think that’s a good use of our time. We do not have a congestion issue like other states and communities.”
Wyoming already pays three times the national average per person to maintain its roads, Reiner said, due in part to its low population and also to the amount of traffic on interstate highways coming from other states.
“It’s a national road and we certainly pay to maintain it,” he said. “The federal money we get goes directly to that.”
Wyoming’s Legislature this year approved a 3 cent boost in gasoline taxes that is expected to raise about $13 million a year for highway work.