3,700 DOT workers furloughed after Congress fails to extend highway funding

Construction on I-66 in Vienna, Va., on June 2
Greg Nash

The Department of Transportation furloughed roughly 3,700 workers on Friday after Congress failed to pass an extension of federal highway funding that was included in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The agency said in a statement that it is working with Congress to swiftly restore transportation funding. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate on Friday said that they are preparing a 30-day reauthorization in case lawmakers are unable to pass the infrastructure bill. 

The bulk of those employees furloughed work at the Federal Highway Administration, which provides federal funding to state transportation departments to pay for road and transit projects. State transportation officials said that a prolonged lapse in funding could delay the construction of key projects.

“We are dealing with very real repercussions,” the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials said in a statement Friday. “Thousands of federal employees at USDOT are being furloughed and $50 billion of federal surface transportation programs supported by the Highway Trust Fund are being suspended. This is unacceptable.”

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who led the charge to vote down the infrastructure bill in order to secure an agreement on Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, told reporters Friday that Congress can easily approve a short-term reauthorization and has done so numerous times.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) on Friday said that the Senate is having bipartisan discussions about a backup plan if the infrastructure vote is delayed again.

“We will need a Plan B,” he said.

Congress can only extend the transportation funding for a maximum of 30 days without providing more funding to the Department of Transportation. 

Tags DOT Federal Highway Administration Furlough Infrastructure Pramila Jayapal Reconciliation Tom Carper Transportation
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