AASHTO Stimulus Report Omits Jobs Data Comparing Transit With Roads

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the trade group representing state DOTs in Washington, yesterday unveiled a website
and report billed as a one-year "progress report" on the White House’s $34.3 billion in formula-based transportation stimulus spending.

cityroom_20090914_ahill_85420_Mino_large.png(Photo: WBEZ)

AASHTO’s report, citing data furnished to Congress, noted that 77 percent of the stimulus’ formula money has been spent on contracts "out to bid" and estimated that 280,000 "highway and transit jobs" were directly created by the transportation spending.

Interestingly, the group’s chart [PDF] showing state-by-state progress on transportation stimulus omits the estimates of jobs created by each category of spending — perhaps because a December analysis of those totals showed that transit was a more cost-effective employment generator than road projects.

Overall, the report attempts to make a case for more investment in infrastructure as part of a second round of job-creation legislation, using anecdotes from state DOT officials and local construction workers who claimed a steady paycheck thanks to the stimulus law. 

"Although transportation received only 6 percent of
total [stimulus] funding, it represents more than 24 percent of the
jobs created by the Act so far," AASHTO executive director John Horsley
wrote in his introduction to the report.

But the group made no direct call for an end to the stalemate over long-term transportation policymaking, supporting only an end to the short-term extensions of the 2005 infrastructure law that have occupied Congress since the fall. With the political climate crying out for a deal on transport financing that can drive broad reform of the existing, bloated system, AASHTO’s priorities appear squarely in favor of … maintaining that system.

From its report (emphasis mine):

[S]tates are hopeful that Congress will turn its attention away from temporary funding streams and toward the longer-term solutions that are desperately needed. Even with the stimulus, states have barely been able to keep up with continually rising traffic demand, and no one expects the country to lose population or see a reduction in vehicle miles traveled any time soon.

  • Tom Rubin

    The ARRA jobs data base is of very poor quality and should not be relied upon for any analysis of productivity of spending by category in creating jobs. For example, a press release from the California Governor’s Office shows ARRA spending creating or saving 26,156 jobs at the California State University system:
    http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/13661/
    However, the entire CSU system only has 48,000 positions:
    http://www.calstate.edu/
    While the study cited above (the link appears busted, but the cite is likely, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Smart Growth America, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group, “What We Learned From The Stimulus … And How to Use What We Learned to Speed Job Creation In the 2010 Jobs Bill,” 1/5/10), calculates that it takes only a little more than half as much to create a “transit” job than a “roads” job, the calculation is that it takes $731,000 of ARRA funds (not counting any state, local, or private funds used) to create one job — hardly something that one should be bragging about to Congress when asking for more money.
    It is also not very reassuring that report uses the made-up statistic of “job-months per billion dollars,” which appears to be utilized specifically to make it less apparent how expensive it is to create jobs in this manner.
    By the way, to the extent that transit actually IS superior than roads in creating jobs, it is likely because ARRA allows transit operators to use 10% of their ARRA funding for operating subsidies, which means that, to create/save operating jobs, you don’t have to “waste” money on silly frills like land to build something on; cement, steel, and asphalt; or rail transit vehicles, but can put it into transit operations, where about 75% goes for direct employment costs.

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