March 1, 2010 2:30 PM, EST

DOT Furloughs Under Way as Funding Flap Continues

LaHood Denounces ‘Political Games’ in Funding Snafu
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood (L) with FMCSA Chief Anne Ferro and ATA President Bill Graves — ATA Photo

The Department of Transportation is furloughing nearly 2,000 employees without pay starting Monday and is temporarily shutting down highway reimbursements to states worth hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of a Senate impasse over federal transportation funding.

The action follows Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) decision to block key legislation that would have extended tax credits for COBRA health coverage, unemployment insurance for 400,000 people, as well as the short-term extension of the federal highway trust fund.

That fund supports all surface transportation programs for the nation — highways, bridges, transit and safety inspections, as well as efforts to encourage seat belt use and to fight distracted and impaired driving.

“As American families are struggling in tough economic times, I am keenly disappointed that political games are putting a stop to important construction projects around the country,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“This means that construction workers will be sent home from job sites because federal inspectors must be furloughed,” he said in a statement.

Because of the shutdown, federal inspectors will be removed from critical construction projects, forcing work to come to a halt on federal lands, DOT said.