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Tuesday, 29th June 2010

Sunlight Foundation Discovers Nearly $120M in Unspent, Lapsed Transit Earmarks

Sunlight Foundation Discovers Nearly $120M in Unspent, Lapsed Transit Earmarks
Source: Sunlight Foundation

Nearly $120 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) earmarks that were introduced and approved by Congress have sat untouched in FTA accounts for years and have now lapsed, according to a new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group. According to documents Sunlight obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), local recipients never spent $119.2 million set aside by Congress through over 150 earmarks in 2006 and 2007 that should have funded mass transit projects in several communities across the U.S. These funds were allocated under The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for User (SAFETEA-LU) and should have been spent by September 30, 2009 at the latest. Along with its analysis, the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group also released a spreadsheet that details which projects were never completed and how much earmarked funds should have been spent.

In a companion piece, Sunlight also described the difficulty its researchers encountered when trying to obtain data from the FTA. At first, the government released printouts of a database, and once only sent the first tab of a multi-tabbed spreadsheet, underscoring the need for electronic disclosure. After multiple FOIA requests and clarifications, Sunlight was finally able to get the information it needed. The information Sunlight released today is not publicly available elsewhere.

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