Butler County officials are not worried that the recent partial shutdown of the federal government will affect the $20 million federal grant that will pay to widen and straighten Route 228 in Middlesex Township.
County officials announced Dec. 6 that they received $20 million from the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program, which is a pool of $1.5 billion in discretionary funding for infrastructure projects to be meted out in competitive grants.
The U.S. Department of Transportation, which has been affected by the recent government shutdown, administers the grant.
But Mark Gordon, the county’s chief of economic development and planning, said that he’s not worried about the shutdown affecting the project.
He explained that the final design, bid process and other steps must be taken before construction begins in warmer weather.
Gordon added that the grant is distributed as a reimbursement, meaning that the state’s Department of Transportation would pay for each step of the project and then be reimbursed with BUILD grant funds.
He feels confident that the government shutdown will not affect the project because of the long timeline in completing it.
“This is a really protracted process,” Gordon said.
He said the most expensive part of the process will be the construction of the improved highway, and that will not occur anytime soon.
“You have a long way to go before we even get into construction,” Gordon said.
He said an unusually long government shutdown could have an effect, but he is not worried that could happen.
“It’s premature to say there will be any negative impact (on the county’s BUILD grant funds),” Gordon said.
Leslie Osche, county commission chairman, said she doesn’t feel the shutdown will affect the project because all of the work and planning are being done at the state and local level.
“I don’t imagine it’s going to affect it long term,” Osche said.
She said the BUILD grant pool of funds has been secured, which provides a certain level of immunity from the shutdown.
“The money was already put in place in the budget and approved,” Osche said.
The only way that Osche could imagine the shutdown would impact the BUILD funds is if it is still ongoing when officials need to provide the signatures for the drawdown of the funds.
“But the drawdowns won’t start for at least six months,” she said.
The shutdown occurred because the $5 billion requested by President Donald Trump for a border wall did not appear in the 2019 federal budget.