Road Stimulus Money: Half Spent on Repaving, 17% on Widening

The $787 billion economic stimulus law provided $27 billion for roads and bridges. But is the money going to shore up aging infrastructure or to add new highway lanes?

Nonpartisan auditors at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the question during a House transportation committee hearing today. And as the Associated Press reports in the above feature, bridges have been the most shortchanged by stimulus spending thus far.

The GAO's report [PDF] found that of the $16.8 billion in already-allocated road stimulus money, "about half" has gone to pavement upgrades, 17 percent has gone to road widening, and 12 percent has gone to both building and improving bridges. From the GAO's study:

Many state officials told us they selected a large percentage of resurfacing and other pavement improvement projects because they did not require extensive environmental clearances, were quick to design, could be quickly obligated and bid, could employ people quickly, and could be completed within 3 years.

The desire to create or save jobs was the prime mover behind the stimulus' emphasis on speedy, "shovel-ready" projects. So how many jobs have actually resulted from the money being spent?

Citing data submitted by state DOTs and transit agencies, the House committee reported that 2,522 projects have started in all 50 states and D.C., "creating or sustaining" 48,000 jobs involving direct work. Indirect involvement, such as the manufacture of new buses or asphalt for repaving, was credited with "tens of thousands" of jobs.