Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Federal Stimulus

SGA: Transportation Funding Pays Big Dividends Only If Invested Wisely

In just the last month, several reports have quantified, in various ways, how investing in transportation infrastructure pays off in jobs and economic health. Now Smart Growth America is out with new research showing that it's not enough to plunk down a bunch of money and expect miracles. You've got to do it right.

Portland, Oregon used $1.3 million of their stimulus funds to repair damaged roads and install new bus stop pads in downtown. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasngo/4194938297/in/pool-1380829@N25/##flickr / Thomas Le Ngo##

Doing it right, SGA says, consists of the following recipe:

    • Preserve existing roads and bridges
    • Build public transportation

In its report, "Recent Lessons from the Stimulus: Transportation Funding and Job Creation," released Friday, SGA found that on average, road repair produced 16 percent more jobs per dollar than new road construction. And public transportation beat that handily, creating 31 percent more jobs per dollar than new road construction.

SGA also suggests building connections between existing transportation hubs and regional centers. And it says that focusing on areas hard hit by unemployment will create a bigger bang for your buck.

Looking at how different states invested the $26.6 billion in stimulus money for transportation, SGA picked some winners and losers in the game to use stimulus dollars most effectively:

    • Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maine, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont used 100 percent of their stimulus allocations for roads on repair and maintenance, rather than new capacity.
    • Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, and Kansas went for new capacity instead of maintenance.
    • D.C., Oregon, Massachusetts, and New York dedicated more than 20 percent of the funds to public transit.
    • Nebraska, Louisiana, Wyoming, Nevada, and Arkansas gave the least.

SGA found that every billion dollars spent on road capacity resulted in 2.4 million work-hours, while every billion spent on transit resulted in 4.2 million work-hours.

Recommendations to states, Congress, and the U.S. DOT suggest that in order to fight unemployment and lay the foundation for long-term economic growth, they should reconsider their preference for road-building when investing future infrastructure dollars.

Overall, of the $26.6 billion the stimulus invested in transportation, 58.9 percent went to road preservation projects. One-third went to new road capacity. Less than four percent went to non-motorized projects like pedestrian and bike facilities or streetscape improvements. And just 1.7 percent went to public transportation.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

What a Surprise! Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause Helps Rich Suburban Drivers

Gov. Hochul's "little guys" certainly have big wallets. Meanwhile, the rest of us suffer with declining subway service and buses that are slower than walking. Thanks, Kathy.

July 22, 2024

Philadelphia Demands More Than ‘Flex-Post’ Protected Bike Lanes After Motorist Kills Cyclist

Pediatric oncologist Barbara Friedes was struck while biking on a "protected" path. Now, advocates are arguing that flex posts should be replaced with something far better.

July 22, 2024

Monday’s Headlines Switch Tracks

President Joe Biden dropped out of the race Sunday and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris. So what does this mean for transportation?

July 22, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Go Back to the Future

If you liked the first Trump administration's transportation policies, you're going to love the second Trump administration's transportation policies.

July 19, 2024

Advocates Share What It Takes to Fight Highway Expansions in Court 

What does it take to sue your state DOT? Time, money, the right partners, and a little creativity, a recent survey of activists found.

July 19, 2024
See all posts