Jim Bunning, Kentucky's contrary U.S. senator, singlehandedly has shut down road construction projects across the nation, including many in national parks, because he doesn't want to help middle-class families weather the economic storm, U.S. Department of Transportation officials said Monday.
The Republican's move to block key legislation forced the department to furlough nearly 2,000 employees and shut down highway reimbursements to states worth hundreds of millions of dollars, national anti-drunk driving efforts, and multi-million dollar construction projects across the country, DOT officials said in a release. Specifically, Sen. Bunning blocked legislation that covered tax credits for COBRA health coverage, unemployment insurance for 400,000 people, as well as the short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund. The 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, the department said.
“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.”
Because of the shutdown, federal inspectors will be removed from critical construction projects, forcing work to come to a halt on federal lands, the agency said. National parks impacted by the shutdown range from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where reconstruction of the Cades Cove Loop was to start in earnest Monday and Sequoia National Park, which has a huge construction project at its main entrance scheduled to Vicksburg National Military Park and even Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Here's a breakdown of affected national park projects:
* Coronado National Monument, main park entrance, $1,500,000
* Sequoia National Park, main entrance, $15,000,000
* Golden Gate National Recreation Area, road construction, $8,700,000
* Chicakamauga & Chattanogga National Military Park, construction, $634,000
* Great Falls Park, entrance road construction, $3,100,000
* Piscataway National Park, erosion and slope damage repair, $89,000
* Natchez Trace Parkway, resurfacing, $8,100,000
* Natchez Trace Parkway, trail construction (Ridgeland County, Mississippi), $5,600,000
* Vicksburg National Military Park, road rehabilitation and resurfacing, $5,000,000
* Natchez Trace Parkway, trail construction (Madison County, Mississippi), $4,700,000
* Carlsbad Caverns National Park, roadway rehabilitation, $9,000,000
* Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Newfound Gap road rehabilitation, $9,900,000
* Blue Ridge Parkway, reconstruction and resurfacing, $6,000,000
* Fort Sumter Historic Site, entrance road and parking area rehabilitation, $262,000
* Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove Loop Road rehabilitation, $6,700,000
* Shilo National Park, tour roads and parking area rehabilitation, $3,000,000
* George Washington Parkway, Humpback Bridge replacement, $36,000,000
* Blue Ridge Parkway, reconstruction and resurfacing, $12,000,000
* Virgin Islands National Park, Centerline Road reconstruction, $9,000,000
* Virgin Islands National Park, St. John roundabout construction, $7,200,000
Furloughs will affect employees funded by the Highway Trust Fund at the following agencies: the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.