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Possible Government Shutdown Impacts on Public Transportation

This week, Congress must enact a continuing appropriations act, or Continuing Resolution (CR), to prevent a government shutdown beginning Sunday, October 1. It is unclear if Congress will reach a bipartisan agreement to prevent the shutdown. According to the American Public Transit Association, if a funding gap occurs, federal agencies are generally required to begin a shutdown of affected projects and activities, which includes the prompt furlough of non-excepted personnel.

The impacts of a government shutdown on U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies vary considerably. Federal Transit Administration (FTA) operations will continue and none of its employees would be furloughed. FTA will be able to reimburse transit agencies for previously approved projects. However, it is not clear that FTA will be able to approve new grants.

Conversely, 350 employees (35 percent) of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) would be furloughed during a government shutdown.

According to DOT, during a government shutdown, FTA operations will continue because the personnel are financed by the Highway Trust Fund or advance appropriations under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).  The impact on FTA activities is less clear. FTA has sufficient liquidating cash to support several months of reimbursements for previously approved projects. In addition, activities funded from IIJA advance appropriations will continue during a lapse in annual appropriations. However, it is not clear that FTA will be able to approve new grants.

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