APC, ACEC/PA, ACPA, PACA, PAPA, and PennCGC staff met today with PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian, Executive Deputy Secretary George McAuley, and Deputies Melissa Batula and Larry Shifflett to review the Department’s current financial situation and the impact of the federal COVID relief package. It was confirmed that PennDOT will receive about $410 million from the legislation.

PennDOT leaders today indicated they plan to use the COVID relief monies to resume the construction and design program as outlined during the APC Fall Conference. It is important to note that President Trump still has to sign the bill and that there is further guidance pending from FHWA once the bill is signed.

However, Secretary Gramian and company did confirm that by receiving the $410 million they will be able to fund existing projects and resume lettings, moving forward a capital program that would result in total calendar year 2020 and 2021 lettings of $3.8 billion for the two years. PennDOT noted that because things are still somewhat in flux, the status of the January 14 letting is still in question and will have to be confirmed at a later date. This will be done as soon as possible.

The following information was provided by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association staff and confirmed during today’s discussions:

  • A total of $9.84 billion will be distributed to states via the same formula used for annual obligations of authorized Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) funds. The other $160 million will be distributed for Puerto Rico, U.S. territories and tribes. PennDOT’s share is about $410 million, putting PA in the top five states in terms of dollars to be received.
  • While funds can be used for STBG activities (the broadest of the core federal transportation construction programs), state DOTs will have greater-than-normal flexibility in the use of these funds.
  • Uses may include: forpreventive maintenance, routine maintenance, operations, personnel, including salaries of employees (including those employees who have been placed on administrative leave) or contractors, debt service payments, availability payments, and coverage for other revenue losses. It is this bill language to which FHWA intends to provide further guidance.
  • There is no state share associated with this spending allocation, allowing all projects to receive 100 percent federal funds. Any project on the federal system is eligible for use of the funds.
  • The funds will go out within 30 days from enactment of the law and will remain available for use through Fiscal Year 2024.
  • There is still uncertainty regarding how the funds will be administered that will not be known until guidance is provided from USDOT

Yesterday, all construction/engineering trade association executives sent a letter to Governor Wolf and Secretary Gramian urging that the COVID relief money be used for capital projects.

We appreciate the detailed information provided by the Department today and we will provide more details as they become available.