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.

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