June 30, 2009

How are our federal stimulus funds being spent on transportation?

Of the $336 million in federal transportation money Massachusetts received from the federal stimulus program, one-fifth is being spent on building new roadways, according to a report from Smart Growth America examining how transportation Stimulus funds are being spent. That's the second highest portion in New England (only New Hampshire is using more).

On the plus side: A solid 14% will be spent on "non-motorized" projects, and another 17% on transit-related programs.

Massachusetts ranked 29th in the portion of money being used to repair existing roadways as opposed to build new ones, but third in the percent of funding being used on public transportation and "non-motorized projects" (District of Columbia was first and Delaware 2nd).

Overall, Smart Growth America concludes that "states failed to make as much progress as possible on pressing transportation needs."

In addition, the group claims, the billions in federal transportation stimulus money will create and save jobs but not "as many or as quickly as they could have," arguing data show another $2 billion on repair would have created 4,300 new jobs more quickly. And while the funds will help shore up crumbling infrastructure, there will now be "$6 billion more miles of roads to maintain ... When they could not afford to maintain the ones they already have."

The report also says spending falls far short of providing a more balanced transportation system, improve public transportation, help reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions or not contribute to additional sprawl.

More than half of the roads in Massachusetts were not in good condition as of 2007, costing the average driver about $300 a year. In addition, 345 bridges and roadways in the state were "structurally deficient" last year, the report says.

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