move comes as transportation secretary Nathan Hayward described
himself as "enormously pleased" with a larger-than-expected
allocation of federal money.
However, he cautioned that Delaware Department of
Transportation's ability to actually receive and spend those
additional dollars is by no means certain. "In order to put
[them] to work, we have to come up with local matches," he told
understand how a reputed windfall is not really a windfall
unless the legislature changes its attitude toward
transportation financing require a journey through the labyrinth
of federal budgeting.
planning council's role theoretically is to set out a
Transportation Improvement Program plan which reflects the
public's priorities for highway and other transportation
spending. By law, that is the first step toward securing federal
support for those projects.
reality this year, DelDOT as a major component in the executive
branch of state government and the General Assembly as the
legislative branch have ignored the planning council plan.
the proposed plan was made public but before it was officially
adopted, DelDOT, in response to Governor Ruth Ann Minner's call
for economies in proposed state spending, reduced its fiscal
year 2006 capital budget request by $202 million or about a
third. The council responded by delaying what normally would
have been routine official endorsement of an amended plan.
before the mid-June deadline for approving a plan, the council's
directors rejected its staff's menu of priorities and went
along, albeit reluctantly, with what then was expected to be the
Assembly's version of authorized capital spending for
transportation -- DelDOT's section of what is commonly referred
to as the fiscal 2006 'bond bill'.
enacting the measure just before adjourning at the end of June,
however, the Assembly made some changes.
'bond bill' included a quicker implementation schedule for
[Interstate]-95, thus making the state match unavailable for
other projects ... included in its prioritized [plan]," the
council said in a press statement announcing a proposed set of
revisions to the approved plan.
plan is amended as now proposed at the directors' meeting in
September, the planning council will have approved reducing or
eliminating financing for several major projects between now and
the end of fiscal 2008.
Zegeye, the council's executive director, told Delaforum that
directors could decide not to approve the amended plan. That
would jeopardize the state's receiving any federal money for
projects not in the existing one.
agreed that is not likely to happen. But she said the planning
council will hold an information session and workshop-style
public hearing after the directors' meeting. Although that would
be another after-the-fact event, she said it is intended to "let
the public know what is happening [and] to receive their
The proposed amended plan covers the next three fiscal years. Included among projects drawing goose eggs
in each of those years are improvements in the Blue Ball and Churchmans Crossing areas; an enlarged interchange between
Concord Pike and I-95; work on the I-95-Marsh Road interchange;
a new Tyler McConnell Bridge; establishing passenger rail
service between Newark and Middletown and improvements to
commuter rail service between Wilmington and Newark; rebuilding
Philadelphia Pike through Claymont; and sidewalks in Brandywine
keeping with the Assembly's direction, an additional $30.4
million would go this year into improvements to I-95
between the Maryland border and Basin Road. They include
widening the highway through Churchmans Marsh, improving the
interchange with Delaware Route 1 and new toll booths.
Hayward told Delaforum that the federal transportation financing
bill recently signed into law by President George Bush allocates
an average of $158 million in 'formula money' to Delaware
for the current federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, and
the next three years. That compares to an average of $121
million annually between October 1998 and 2004. The 30.3%
increase, he said, is exactly the same as the national average.
'Formula money' is financing that can be applied to any
transportation project which complies with federal standards.
But, he explained, it comes in specific spending categories and
cannot be transferred among categories.
Delaware, Hayward said, is one of the 'donee' states. That means
that it gets back more in federal support than it sends to
Washington in federal fuel tax collected here. On average over
the past four years, the ratio was $1.63 for every dollar
addition to the increase in its 'formula' money, Delaware also
will receive $124 million in 'earmarks' --
federal support for 15 specified projects. The largest is $46
million for the planned bridge over Indian River Inlet along the
coast in Sussex County. There will be $24.5 million for the I-95
projects plus $20 million to build a new interchange connecting
I-95 with the Christina Riverfront in Wilmington. The other
projects range down to $1 million for a University of Delaware
Hayward said U.S. Senator Thomas Carper, who sat on the joint
congressional conference committee which produced the final
version of the bill, was largely responsible for securing that
'formula' and 'earmark' money come with strings attached.
Depending on the nature of the project, the state must put up
10% to 30% of the total cost. Averaged out at about 20%, that
amounts to having to come up with an additional $15 million
during the next three fiscal years.
Hayward would not speculate on the odds of that happening beyond
repeating a previous call for the Assembly to redirect the
state's transportation trust fund away from financing DelDOT
operations back to paying construction and other capital costs.