12/3/2015, WisBusiness – Roadbuilders are cheering a five-year highway funding bill that would increase the amount of federal money going to Wisconsin.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act has cleared a congressional conference committee. It now goes back to Congress for final votes before potentially moving on to the White House.
The FAST Act would increase the amount going to Wisconsin by 5 percent in fiscal year 2016 over 2015 and then by about 2 percent every year through 2020, according to the Federal Highway Administration. In total, Wisconsin would receive nearly $4 billion over five years under the bill.
Even though the five-year authorization still would need yearly appropriations, it’s a good deal for the road industry, said Kevin Traas, director of transportation policy and finance for the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association.
“The contracting community is happy with the length of the bill,” he said.
In the federal government’s 2015 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, Wisconsin received $726.2 million. In 2016, the state will get $763.2 million, according to the feds. The 2 percent year-over-year increases start after that, topping out at $833.3 million in fiscal year 2020.
The increase in money is nice, but the length of the bill is better, said Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin.
The bill follows a multiyear string of short-term extensions to federal highway funding that left the industry unsure of what to expect.
“The most important part is Wisconsin is going to have certainty for five years,” Thompson said.
But the fact that the federal government will increase the money going to states certainly doesn’t hurt, Traas said.
“It beats the alternative,” he said.