Watchdog files suit against DOT; FHWA for blocking records on controversial highway memo

Transportation has been reluctant to release records surrounding the December 2021 memo discouraging states from spending funds on expanding roads

October 6, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced transparency litigation against the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for failing to release records surrounding a December 2021 FHWA memo asking states to use funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) for bike lanes and climate resilience instead of maximizing investment in highway expansion and new bridges.

In November 2021, Congress passed the BIL, a whopping $1.2 trillion funding bill that was sold to the public as an investment in America’s infrastructure. However, on December 16, 2021, the FHWA released a memo laying out “guidance” for states on how to spend the funds they would receive from the BIL, calling it an “overarching framework to prioritize the use of BIL resources on projects that will Build a Better America.” The guidance encouraged states to spend funds on climate projects and bike lanes rather than the traditional infrastructure that had been a primary selling point of trillion dollar bill. The memo came during the height of the nation’s supply chain crisis when support for investment in new infrastructure was at its peak. The catalyst for the memo and the influence of special interests on its development remain open questions that FGI is seeking to identify through its FOIA request.

Environmental special interests’ backroom involvement in decisions about how to allocate funds provided in the administration’s massive spending legislation – specifically the America Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act – has been an ongoing concern for outside watchdogs over the past year and a half.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“Trillions of taxpayer dollars have been doled out over the past 20 months with little to show for it but higher inflation and a drained strategic petroleum reserve. Whether it’s the pandemic, crumbling infrastructure, or runaway inflation, it’s unclear how Americans’ tax dollars are being spent or whether they are being used consistent with the promises made while attempting to sell the legislation to the nation and during the public relations celebrations following passage. Americans deserve to know who on the inside is making these decisions and why they are opting to spend taxpayer dollars towards the goals of special interest groups rather than investing in what Americans need.”