In August, the DOT announced they were over budget and that plans for the improvements to Phase C of US 401 were delayed, citing disaster relief funding needs as one of the main causes. The budget shortfall was a concerning development, particularly given our area’s need for improved infrastructure and the years-long efforts by local grassroots groups and other community leaders to put these improvements into motion.
DOT Funding & Accountability
While there were several storms that affected our state and some of the DOT budget, our area still needs the DOT to fulfill their commitment of resources to complete the construction of planned projects. Accountability for smart allocation of funding for these projects that have been in the works for years, like the US 401 improvements, is essential to the sustainability and growth of our communities.
To combat DOT funding issues, I am proud to say that my colleagues and I have passed Senate Bill 356-‘DOT Cash and Accountability.’
This bill passed 100-2 and was signed into law just days later. This almost immediate infusion of $190M with an additional $100M next year, gives the DOT the money necessary to ensure projects are funded and will be unaffected by delays, including Phase C. It also addresses wasteful spending that might have been a factor in the shortfall to begin with.
Additional Disaster Relief Funding
In addition to the DOT funding bill, I have been working with my colleagues to pass additional disaster relief funding to assist in the recovery from the storms that have passed through our state. This legislation also includes measures to mitigate the impact of future storms.
Further, these measures should ensure that whatever role storms have played in eating away at the DOT budget are less problematic in future years, so that planned infrastructure projects will not be affected. I look forward to working with the DOT to find a way to accelerate Phase D of the US 401 construction plan.
Although there are vocal opponents to the accumulation of a budget surplus, I’m thankful our state had the resources to cover this shortfall and others like it. This is a clear example of why it is critical to practice responsible spending and to have a rainy-day fund to ensure we can adapt and withstand circumstances like this.
I remain committed to infrastructure improvement and smart investments that will lead to growth in our communities and I will continue to work towards real solutions to any challenges that our citizens face.
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I hope you all have a very blessed Thanksgiving!
- Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes