Transportation Enhancements Program on the Chopping Block

Posted on November 11, 2011


Congress is currently scrambling to modify the law before the Transportation Enhancements program expires in the spring.  The existing law requires states use 10% of federal transport funds on enhancement projects such as walking and biking projects, rehabilitating historic sites, and archaeological planning and research.  Archaeology only receives only 1% of those funds, yet the program has funded 200 archaeology projects in the last two decades.

One archaeological site that was funded by the Transportation Enhancements program is located near Lewes, Delaware. Archaeologists found a shipwreck site containing colonial-era pottery. Researchers believe it is the site of the British vessel, Severn, which sunk during a storm in 1774. The site has produced over 45,000 artifacts that are not found anywhere else on the continent.

Due to a sharp decline in revenue from gas taxes which funds the Transportation Enhancements program, the House and Senate propose modification to the existing plan. The House of Representatives proposes a $230 billion budget for the transportation infrastructure over a period of 6 years. A few senators like John McCain and Rand Paul have proposed plans to cut the Transportation Enhancements program while others are attempting to scale it back. The current bill produced by the Senate, named “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21),” would reauthorize spending for 2 more years at current levels; then the number of transportation programs would be reduced drastically. Atates would have a greater power over spending, but the total pool of money is estimated to drop by 25%.

Later this year, a House version of the bill is expected, and lawmakers hope to obtain a final deal before next spring, when the current extension of the bill expires.

Read the full article: Archaeologists fear outcome Congressional Debate on Highway Bill

Thanks to Kristina Bauer for her assistance with this post.