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Found Money – “Orphaned” Federal Earmark Funding for Pathway in Jackson Hole Discovered by Wyoming Pathways.

100415-WY-22-Grand-Opening-New-Pathway-links-Jackson-and-WilsonFederal transportation funding sounds like a pretty wonky topic, hard to get very excited about. But on the other hand, federal transportation funding has been extremely important to build many of the great places we ride bikes in Wyoming, and many communities have benefited. That old saying “follow the money” remains good advice.

Recently I was looking at a notice from the FHWA giving states the opportunity to “repurpose” unspent funds that were originally earmarked in federal legislation for specific projects before Sept. 30, 2005. Curious, I looked into it, and found Wyoming used nearly all earmark funds, (Good job WYDOT) with just a handful of projects that total $847,070 remaining funds.

thomas_craig_officialOne of those listed is the Moose-Wilson Pathway, which runs 8 miles along WY Highway 390 from Wilson to Teton Village. Back in 1998, US Senator Craig Thomas and Rep. Barbara Cubin helped secure an earmark to build the pathway in the TEA-21 transportation reauthorization bill, listed on one short line in the massive bill, “Construct Jackson-Teton Pathway in Teton County, $1.5 million”

Turns out that earmark that has some funds remaining. FHWA records show a $177,706 balance left from an original $1,537,649 earmark, with $1,359,943 spent. Its in the category of projects “more than 10% obligated, vouchered and closed”, with funds remaining.

When Teton County entered into an agreement with WYDOT around 2001 to start using the earmark, final funding amounts for FY-03 and FY-04 were not determined, and the agreement started with less than the total approved by Congress, with a note that “funds may increase”. The feds never notified the County of the balance, but nonetheless, that money seems to still exist.

WYDOT is looking into the funding balance. Teton County is checking to see if they will be able to repurpose use of the remaining funds for a pathway project that would be a good fit. According to the FHWA memo, if there is a completed project funded by earmarks that are more than 10 years old, and final vouchers of payments have been processed and closed out, any remaining funds can be repurposed within a 50-mile radius of the completed project. All the wonky details are here: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/cfo/earmarkrepurposing/

What does this mean in the real world? Well, Teton County may be able to extend a new pathway from the Town of Wilson to the Snake River along the south side of WY-22, which would connect directly to the Moose-Wilson pathway that Sen. Thomas/Rep. Cubin helped to construct. Perhaps following federal cash that could be spent on a pathway is not so wonky after all!