New Stimulus Data: Road Funds 77% Under Contract, Transit at 74%

As of the end of February, nearly $5.4 billion of transit stimulus money, or 74 percent, was under contract for projects in the 50 states and D.C., according to a Streetsblog Capitol Hill analysis of data released today by the House transportation committee.

Shovel_ready.jpg(Photo: DMI Blog)

The success rate of transit stimulus spending was slightly topped by that of road projects funded by the economic recovery law. About $20.3 billion of highway stimulus funding, or 77 percent, was under contract in the 50 states and D.C.

Today’s data release breaks down transportation stimulus spending by state, allowing a closer look at which areas are making more progress on getting road projects out to bid than transit, and vice versa.

For instance, Georgia — where Atlanta’s MARTA transit system, the ninth-largest in the nation, is confronting a deficit that could force massive service cuts — has put less than one-half of its $127 million in transit stimulus funding under contract. Georgia has moved nearly 90 percent of its highway stimulus money into the contracting stage.

California, by contrast, has put 69 percent of its $860 million in transit stimulus funds under contract. Of its $2.5 billion highway stimulus allocation, 59 percent was associated with signed contracts last month.

Not all of the road stimulus funding sent to states was restricted entirely to highway projects. States were permitted in some cases to "flex" money from their road pots to transit, and 10 percent of highway formula allocations is historically set aside for bicycling, pedestrian, and safety work under the Transportation Enhancements program.

Nonetheless, today’s House report continues a trend that emerged during the committee’s early stimulus hearings: concerns that transit projects would not be as "shovel-ready" as roads, aired by some in the Obama administration during the stimulus debate, have proven unfounded.

  • One issue not mentioned in the above informative posting: Government capital spending leads to requirements after project completion for operations and maintenance spending, O&M. Build a road now, and pay for maintaining it forever. Build a rail system now, and pay for running trains and station upkeep forever. The dog has a tail, and it wags.

    For example, Seattle has fully funded rail transit construction underway, a three mile light rail subway, with a generous contribution from the Feds. The separate bus agencies, which are forecast by the MPO (psrc.org) to carry four times the ridership of trains even in 2040 when metro Seattle will have the largest light rail system in America, are on short rations for the foreseeable future, struggling even in the present day to keep existing services going.

  • Another example is the Central Subway in San Francisco. SFMTA is already trimming service at an exponential pace. Once this subway is completed, bus service (which overlaps only slightly) will be drastically cut along with system-wide service. Yes, only a portion of local funds are going to build it, but MUNI is on it’s own to operate it.

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