Recent Lessons from the Stimulus: Transportation Funding and Job Creation

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, February 7th, 2011



As part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) received $26.6 billion in transportation funds that could be spent on almost any surface transportation needs. While there were many national goals for this money, arguably the most pressing need was to save and create jobs.

The question Smart Growth America answers in this report is whether states spent their flexible transportation money on projects that created the maximum number of jobs.

The short answer to that question, unfortunately, is no.

Too many states did not use the ARRA transportation funds on projects that would have provided the greatest number of jobs — short- and long-term. This report explores how states allocated their transportation dollars, analyzes the resulting numbers of jobs created per dollar spent and provides recommendations on how states could have better invested their dollars to create the most job.

How States could (and Should) Have Spent the Money

According to a recent national survey conducted by Smart Growth America, 91 percent of voters believe that maintaining and repairing our roads and bridges should be the top or a high priority for state spending on transportation programs, and 68 percent believe that expanding and improving bus, rail, van service, biking, walking, and other transportation choices should be the top or a high priority. This is because they believe our government has an obligation to citizens to create jobs and implement policies that will strengthen our economy. When it comes to transportation spending, they don’t think we need to build more roads and highways, but rather we need to fix what we already have. Moreover, they understand that public transportation choices give people low cost ways to get to work when they need them, particularly in these difficult times.

Not only does the public think maintaining and repairing roads and bridges and expanding public transportation options are the areas states should focus on, the data show clearly that this is the right thing to do.

Top States / Bottom States by Repair

*These two tables rank states by share of ARRA road money spent on system preservation. Three of the “bottom five” for spending on preservation also have low proportions of their systems in good repair. Florida’s and Kansas’ systems are in some of the best shape in the country, and so arguably have less reason to spend on system preservation. The same observation applies to the table on the next page showing % spent on repair and number of structurally deficient bridges.

Download full version (PDF): Recent Lessons from the Stimulus

About Smart Growth America

“Smart Growth America is the only national organization dedicated to researching, advocating for and leading coalitions to bring smart growth practices to more communities worldwide. The coalition includes many of the best-known national organizations advocating on behalf of historic preservation, the environment, farmland and open space preservation, neighborhood revitalization and more.”

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