DOT Can't Spend Stimulus Money Fast Enough. Literally.

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

When President Obama championed the federal stimulus bill, transportation and infrastructure projects accounted for a relatively small chunk of the total tab ($787 billion). BUT the Powers That Be hyped it hard; the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) piece of the pie was going to generate more than half of the 3.5 million jobs the Obama administration promised to create or save (don’t get picky). ProPublica’s crack investigative squad now reports that the DOT is having a little trouble shoveling the spade-ready jobs out the proverbial door. “Of the $48 billion in transportation stimulus funds, so far DOT has paid out only $3.4 billion, or 7 percent of the total,” according to Sunshine State Rep. John Mica, the top ranking Republican on the House transportation committee. DOT spokeswoman Jill Zuckman had an answer for that one. “The amount of money spent on highways isn’t as important as the amount of money that’s been approved, which has reached $19.4 billion.” Do people really think like that? Holy shit. It gets worse . . .

Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, the committee’s Democratic chairman, said the stimulus money for highways and transit has already created or sustained 122,000 jobs. But after the hearing, his spokesman Jim Berard clarified that that was 122,000 ‘job months’ – one person working for one month.

It’s difficult to know how many jobs were actually created because some workers will get jobs for years while others will get jobs for days, depending on the scale of the project. So far, workers have worked 22 million job hours, according to the committee.

If those workers had been on the job since the start of the stimulus, it would have created or saved closer to 20,000 jobs – a fraction of what the committee reported.

“There’s really no intention of masking this, no intention of padding the numbers,” Berard said. “It was just a calculation that was done, but just presented orally in a shorthand for expediency’s sake.”

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Hreardon Hreardon on Oct 03, 2009

    The real story here is that nobody seems to have a concept of how long and slow these programs take to both ramp up and get rolling. I don't care how many damned "shovel ready" projects you've got, there are contracts to be bid, engineering studies that must be finalized, environmental impact studies that must be submitted, local politicians who must sign off, etc. That anyone seriously thought the stimulus money would show up in large chunks within a few months of signing is laughable. A year from now if half of that money is spent, I'll be surprised.

  • Jkumpire Jkumpire on Oct 04, 2009

    With respect, Yes, most of us understand the reality of starting projects. But a lot us who are government "bashers" also understand the screwed up economics of the plan to begin with. BTW, in my state, every highway construction or repair project currently going on (even one to fix a short piece of pavement on each side of a small overpass on a little used state route, maybe 1 mile or replaced pavement) has a massive sign that proclaims this is a shovel ready project paid for by the Stimulus bill. So either our Democratic governor is a massive liar, or the lead time on repairs and new construction has shrunk dramatically in my state. You chose what to believe.

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