Smart Growth America recently reported on how the states are doing on their stimulus spending.
The 120-day mark is significant because it is the point by which states and territories are required to have obligated 50 percent of the flexible money granted them for transportation projects by the federal government. The money is meant to stimulate the economy, but also — in the language of the Act — “to invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits.”
The stimulus funding arrives at a time of embarrassingly large backlogs of road and bridge repairs, inadequate and underfunded public transportation systems, and too-few convenient, affordable transportation options.
Did states use their flexible money to make progress on these pressing needs?
DC and Maryland did well. They was two of the 11 states (I know) that dedicated 100% of the stimulus money they chose to spend on roads towards maintenance work. Maryland came in 5th (based on % and roads in need) and Virginia in 39th. DC was among the top 11, but the percentage of good roads wasn't known.
The District of Columbia committed 41.5% of its funding toward public transportation and non-motorized projects, including facilities to make walking and biking safer and more convenient. Only 6 other states spent over 10% of their budgets on these types of projects: Delaware, Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Colorado, and Hawaii.
Maryland was 10th at 6.1% and Virginia was 11th with 5.2%. From the report:
The data are clear: an ARRA portfolio that spends most of its STP funding on increasing conventional roadway lane miles and relatively little on public transportation, repairs to crumbling infrastructure, or bike and pedestrian routes, would not get the biggest short‐ and longterm economic stimulus bang for the ARRA buck, nor would that portfolio fulfill the other ARRA goals.
Every city in the country has substantial needs for expanded bicycle and pedestrian mobility.
The $600 million in STP funding commitments to non‐motorized transportation is better, but also fails to meaningfully respond to the public’s need for more affordable and healthy transportation options. This level of spending for bicycling and walking will have minimal impact on the nation’s stock of bicycle and pedestrian routes, or on individual mobility.
It's not a fair comparison really, since DC isn't like other states - it's built out and there are no rural areas; but it's nice to do Maryland and Virginia doing better than average.
The Post covered this, but spent most of it's time criticizing Virginia (and got the percentage allocated to road preservation wrong). It did have this:
D.C. Department of Transportation Director Gabe Klein said the District has used its stimulus money to invest in alternatives to driving while improving existing roads and bridges.
"The District recognizes the need for a balanced transportation system, and our stimulus spending reflects that," he said.
Meanwhile Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is not loving that the federal government is paying to invest in alternatives to driving.
The Obama administration's stimulus program is fraught with waste and incompetence...Millions of dollars are going toward bicycle lockers, bike paths, walking trails and a skate park, Coburn said.