Stimulus Funds Not Targeting Nation's Worst Roads

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

A major criteria for spending funds from the recent stimulus bill was that qualifying projects had to be “shovel ready.” Though that stricture was put in place to speed up the stimulus’s impact on the economy, it’s preventing the replacement of many of the worst roads in the nation. USA Today reports that only 20 percent of the $10 billion in stimulus money being spent on road repairs will go to the 74 counties that host half of the country’s worst roads. According to USA Today‘s analysis, those 74 (mostly-urban) counties will split $1.9 billion in stimulus road repair funds. Counties with no roads in need of major repairs mysteriously ended up with $1.5 billion. “Objective reviews show that Recovery Act dollars are going to the communities that need it the most to repair roads and bridges in need of help,” say Federal Highway Administration spokesfolks. However, USA Today‘s study is based on FHA data from 2007. USA Today has an interactive map comparing miles of “unacceptable” roads and amounts of stimulus dollars allocated. Check it out here.

Edward Niedermeyer
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  • Johnthacker Johnthacker on Sep 29, 2009
    Did you ever question whether or not the Bush Checks went to those with the greatest identified needs? Well, it didn't go to me because my income was too high, so I'd say that need was considered somehow. Unless you think upper-middle and upper class people who bought too much home have "the greatest identified needs." With those checks, there was absolutely no telling how the money was spent or if it was even spent at all. True, some people saved the money or used it to pay off debts, which some economists consider a bad thing. But otherwise it's a philosophical question of whether you think people do a better or worse job deciding where to spend their money than government planners and the political process. Government spending definitely results in a lot of projects that people wouldn't pay for if it required using their own money. Not because they couldn't afford it-- with some of these projects, if you gave the money directly to the local governments or taxpayers, they'd choose to spend it on something else. It's just that you can only get Federal money for a project that has undergone the NEPA process. But what if the only projects that have already gone through the environmental and planning process you have sitting around are sitting around precisely because they aren't worth it? Locales can get money for things that they studied and the study revealed it wasn't worth it, instead of their current top priorities where NEPA isn't satisfied yet. The government decided that people would be better off buying new cars than doing home improvements or paying down debt, rather than letting people themselves make that decision in an unbiased fashion.
  • Johnthacker Johnthacker on Sep 29, 2009
    Was actually the point – You deciding to focus on bridges is the same deflection bs that our politicians love to use so much. You're the one who's engaging in deflection. You mentioned bridges-- let's finish that quote of yours: "It’s called having appropriate taxation to support infrastructure, not putting it off until it can’t be put off anymore (or say a bridge collapses)." You offer a bridge collapsing as evidence of infrastructure not being supported; it was pretty clear to me that you were trying to use the bridge collapse in Minneapolis as evidence. But anecdote is not data. As soon as I present the far more detailed contradictory data, you then deny that bridges were part of your argument. But what other examples did you offer to back up your assertion? I've provided evidence that one of your examples was false, and that in one key measure of infrastructure-- maintaining bridges-- money is being spent to address the problem and it's been getting steadily better over the long term. Shouldn't you (and John Horner) have to provide some evidence of your assertion of crumbling infrastructure? Or else you're just engaging in rhetoric with no facts to back it up, just like our politicians love to do so much.
  • Johnthacker Johnthacker on Sep 29, 2009

    Anyway, fine, you want to talk highways instead of bridges? We'll go to the FHWA's 2006 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit. From Chapter 3: System Conditions: Highways and Bridges:

    In 2004, 44.2 percent of travel on arterials and collectors for which data are available occurred on pavements with "good" ride quality, up from 39.8 percent in 1995. The percentage of VMT on roads with "acceptable" ride quality (a lower standard that includes roads classified as "good") fell from 86.6 percent to 84.9 percent over the same period of time. You'll also find in Chapter 4 that according to the FTA bus age and condition has been relatively stable, and the condition of rail stations and rail maintenance facilities have improved slightly, and the average age of rail cars decreased slightly. Roads and bridges are being maintained. The key metric that's getting worse is congestion. (See other chapters in the report.) Possible solutions to that include congestion charges, building more roads, or spending on alternate means of travel. But the need to relieve congestion is different from "supporting infrastructure" and maintenance of "deteriorating infrastructure," which is what you and John Horner focused on.
  • GS650G GS650G on Sep 29, 2009

    Roads are one of the few things government should be concerned exclusively with since traveling benefits us all. To move goods around the country is a requirement not easily met by rail, air or even boat. If really good roads were a priority for our tax dollars I, like most people, would have no problem paying the bill. But too many examples exist where taxes collected for roads were spent elsewhere. Millions of dollars in bridge tolls were diverted in Philadelphia for "development projects" including museums, housing, river dredging and huge salaries for the Port Authority chiefs. While the diverted causes were probably grand and great, they should be funded some other way instead of soaking motorists crossing a bridge over a natural barrier to get to work.