How the government shutdown affects transportation planning


As you have no doubt heard by now, the federal government has shutdown. So for those in the transportation planning community what does this mean?

  • In Chicago, my own agency will be running normal schedules with no direct impacts to riders due to the shutdown. However, we might have a few less riders because…
  • Chicago is fourth on the list for non-Post Office federal employee population with 16,069 employees, many of whom work downtown. This includes offices of the Federal Transit Administration, General Services Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, three departments that will see massive furloughs. Outside of D.C., New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia are tops on that list by the way.
  • If you have projects funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, you may want to consider hitting the pause button. “No grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, purchase orders, travel authorizations, or other documents obligating funds will be executed to any of the FTA’s 1300 grantees” according to DOT guidance. For transit agencies, grant money, obligating funds, etc. that you are getting daily from the FTA will cease. Almost all FTA staff will be furloughed. In October of FY2013, FTA payments to grantees averaged about $200m per week.
  • The above being said, if you are in the construction management or a contractor and your project stalls, don’t expect to get paid until the shutdown ends. Many transportation agencies may be loath to dip into their reserve funds to keep projects going unless there are signs that the shutdown will be short-lived.
  • Air Traffic Controllers will be on the job, although some non-“essential” FAA employees will be on furlough. TSA agents will also be on the job. If your airport is undergoing an airport planning process or is currently receiving planning grants, your project may be stalled.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration will furlough half of its employees, none of them involved in safety operations. Functions to be suspended include the high-speed rail initiative, all grant and financial assistance activities, and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan payments.




  1. Pamela Heady says

    I found your article to be interesting in that I’m quite curious in all the ways the government shut-down will impact people, and me. I keep hearing about the main operations that will continue: postal, TSA, etc and I know that National Parks close – but beyond what I hear on the news, this helps me understand from a more personal perspective what this all means. Funded projects and the like weren’t something I had thought of and this explains just how deeply this shut-down will affect Americans.

    • says

      It is a shame about this shutdown and our political process in general because these actions really do hurt regular people, particularly the longer this whole thing goes.

  2. says

    Well here in NYC, MTA is running as scheduled, which is usually “off-schedule”. Anyway, some of the tourism has been affected b/c Statue of Liberty was closed, so that meant some private businesses closed too (No need to be open to sell the key chains if no one is coming, right?). On a whole I think this is dumb idea, if people want to live life without a government, why don’t they just spend some time out in Somalia or Haiti. That’ll give them an idea of how things are like.

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