DOT: State payments to cities, counties for roads down $3 million

    A Highway Helper assists motorists along Interstate Highway 235 in Des Moines. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation)

    Iowa cities and counties will get $3 million less than last year for road projects based on fuel and vehicle purchases and registrations, the Iowa Department of Transportation reported Friday.

    But that means the Road Use Tax Fund is in better shape than expected after the COVID-19 pandemic reduced travel in Iowa, DOT administrators Stu Anderson and Charlie Purcell wrote in a memo to city and county officials.

    The DOT had estimated that the September allocation of road use taxes to cities and counties would be 15% higher than August’s. The allocation actually will be 30% higher.

    But that is still $3 million lower than what was predicted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Iowa, the officials wrote.

    The main reason for the added allocation is a once-a-year transfer of unallocated funds from another state account, wrote Anderson, director of the Plan, Programming and Modal Division, and Purcell, who directs the Project Delivery Division.

    Road use taxes come from fuel taxes and vehicle registration and title fees.

    The DOT predicts local governments will see payments 8% to 10% lower than 2019 for the months affected by the pandemic.

    Traffic was down 15% through July, but has picked up lately and is now running 7% under last year’s level for this time of year, the state reported.

    Perry Beeman
    Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.