President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that comes to his desk with earmarks and would support legislation to permanently ban earmarks. But $473 million in highway earmarks from FY2003-2006 appropriations acts remain unspent years later. Those acts contain provisions that authorize U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to make the unused funds available for eligible surface transportation projects. Effective immediately, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail or port project.
States must identify the projects they plan to use the funds for by October 1 and must obligate them by December 31, 2012.
To ensure that this funding is quickly put to good use, funds not obligated by the December 31 deadline will be proportionally redistributed in FY 2013 to states that met the deadline.