NY and CA: How Did They Spend Transportation Stimulus Money?

In an economic recovery report released today by New York Gov. David Paterson (D), the state broke down its plans for the estimated $31 billion it received as part of the Obama administration’s first stimulus law.

new_york_city_transit_new_york_city_ny014.jpgNew York spent more than half of its transport stimulus money on transit. (Photo: PlanetWare)

A chart of New York’s stimulus spending shows that, out of a total of $2.4 billion in expected transportation aid, the state plans to direct $1.12 billion to highways and bridges and $1.22 to transit.

With the federal government still dividing its transport funding along an 80-20 split that favors roads, New York’s decision to spend $100 million more stimulus aid on transit represents a welcome break from tradition. In California, where San Francisco and Los Angeles maintain large transit networks, roads received slightly more than double the amount of stimulus aid going to rail and buses.

Directly comparing New York and California’s transportation funding choices would be the epitome of the old idiom about apples and oranges. But as the congressional jobs debate sharpens its focus on infrastructure projects, it’s worth noting that the roads-transit split is only one chapter in a bigger story.

A federal "fix-it-first" mandate, which environmental groups and transportation reformers are urging Congress to include in the new jobs bill, would help break down the cultural divide between different transport modes by ensuring that repairs of existing infrastructure come first. After all, crumbling and pothole-ridden roads affect pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.

California, incidentally, lacks a "fix-it-first" requirement despite ranking 49th out of 50 states in recent rankings of nationwide road quality.

1 thought on NY and CA: How Did They Spend Transportation Stimulus Money?

  1. I like the idea you’re getting at here, but this is an inaccurate way to read the reports from NY and CA.

    The “Highways & Bridges” funding (which can actually also be spent on freight rail, passenge rail, and port infrastructure projects) and the Mass Transit funding were distributed in ARRA using the same formulas that were used in the last surface transportatin authorization bill (SAFETEA-LU).

    The fact that NY got $1.12b of the nation’s $27.5 in “highway” funding (4%) vs $1.22b of the $8.4b in transit funding (14.5%) is reflective of the huge existing transit infrastructure in NYC compared to the rest of the country. It’s not reflective of any decisions made by NY DOT as related to the stimulus bill. It is of course reflective of collective decisions made in NY and the rest of the country over the past hundred years.

    If you want to look at actual decision making by State DOTs currently in regards to how they spent stimulus money, the question to ask would be how much of their ARRA “highway” funding did each state flex over to freight rail, passenger rail, or port infrastructure projects. This data will be hard to find, but very interesting if you can get it. It’s my understanding that Ohio has been the most aggressive in using ARRA “highway” funding for rail projects. Kudos to Ohio and their enlightened Secretary of Transportation Jolene Molitoris. I believe that PA, NY, CA, VA, OR, IA, KS, and TX also all flexed some “highway” money to rail…there may be others.

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