Killing the Myth of the ‘More Shovel-Ready’ Road Stimulus

During debate over the White House's $787 billion economic stimulus law, transit advocates watched as their projects were shortchanged and more "shovel-ready" road projects got the lion's share of the transport pot -- about $8.4 billion, compared with $27.5 billion for highways and bridges.

Shovel_ready.jpg(Photo: DMI Blog)
But transit money is getting put to use on the state level just as quickly as highway money, according to state-level stimulus data released today by the House transportation committee.

Across the 50 states, 5 percent of transit stimulus money has been spent (as opposed to allocated for for future projects), according to a Streetsblog Capitol Hill analysis of the House data. Just 3 percent of road stimulus money has gone out the door.

Those numbers certainly look low across the board; members of Congress fear that red tape is getting in the way, but Transportation Secretary LaHood has chalked the pace up to the traditional process of transportation bidding and contracting.

Looking at the states' breakdown of stimulus cash associated with projects already "out to bid," however, transit remains on par with highways.

Sixty percent of stimulus dollars for roads have started to move through the contracting process, according to today's House data, while 57 percent of transit stimulus money is already "out to bid."

Which states are doing better at putting road and transit money into the pipeline, and which are lagging behind? More details follow after the jump.

Only one state has already finished the job of putting its road and transit stimulus "out to bid": Maine, which received $130.8 million for highways and $13.3 million for transit.

California, Illinois, and New York are all doing well, moving more than half of their road and transit aid into the contract bidding stage. But Massachusetts has a notably slow spend-out rate -- just $35 million of its $238.8 million transit pot is associated with "out to bid" contracts, and less than $200 million of its $437 million road pot is in that phase.

Some states appear to be all but sitting on their transportation stimulus money to keep it warm. Mississippi has bid out more than $255 million of its $355 million in road funding, according to the House, but has not moved at all on its $20.3 million in formula-based transit aid.

Similarly, Delaware has reported no contract bidding associated with its $19 million transit pot, and Idaho has reported no action on its $30 million in transit money. Perhaps New York's two Democratic senators will revive their offer to take unwanted economy recovery money off of other states' hands.