Bloomberg is reporting the sample of state stimulus plans publicly released are roads-heavy.  While that’s bad news, it shouldn’t be surprising at all:

Missouri’s plan to spend $750 million in federal money on highways and nothing on mass transit in St. Louis doesn’t square with President-elect Barack Obama’s vision for a revolutionary re-engineering of the nation’s infrastructure.

Utah would pour 87 percent of the funds it may receive in a new economic stimulus bill into new road capacity. Arizona would spend $869 million of its $1.2 billion wish list on highways.

As Matt Yglesias has pointed out, this is not shocking because most state constitutions are structured to limit the power of the major metropolitan areas.  Just imagine what would happen if the stimulus check were simply handed over to Olympia!

This bears watching, but I’d say it’d be most productive to make sure that our Congressmen and Senators know that we want a lot of the money delivered straight to the city and county level.  As our very own mayor is quoted in this Washington Post article:

In Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels said that the list of projects submitted by Washington state included only one in Seattle, for a ferry dock, while the city has ambitious hopes for removing a hulking highway ramp in a revitalized neighborhood and accelerating a light-rail expansion.

“Metro areas really are the engines of the economy, and to the extent that this can go directly to the metro areas rather than a cumbersome state process, it will have more effect,” Nickels said. “States can do a nice job in rural counties, but in metro areas it’s not always a good relationship or very nimble.”

As it stands, Congress, wanting to keep things simple, plans to disburse the money under existing formulas — funding for roads and bridges will go to state governments, while money for public transit will go to the local agencies that receive transit funding.

Image from Wikimedia.

13 Replies to “More Obama Panic”

    1. Grow Trains. I totally agree. I have included a paragraph from Legislative Affairs Director, Lloyd Flem, of All Aboard Washington’s latest news post. I think the Obama team needs some ‘hand holding’ to boldly go where no administration has gone — time for change!

      [excerpt follows from 12/26/08 post] by Lloyd Flem
      “Now, to the most important topic: The incoming Obama Administration’s economic stimulus proposed is out. Most members of Congress will support. Of particular interest to rail advocates is the $85 billion for investing in transportation and environmental infrastructure. ($85 billion is certainly “real money”, to quote the late and great Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-IL), but the Wall Street bailout was many times higher!)

      Of the T&EI money, $30.25 billion is proposed for highways and highway bridges, $12 billion for transit, and $5 billion for rail. Some are saying, given the Obama people’s positions on climate change and fossil fuel use, there ought to be more for transit and rail, less for highways……. a ratio closer to that now being invested in most European and East Asian nations.

      What is important, and where we come in is that $5 billion, at least, must stick! Of that, $1.5 b is proposed directly to Amtrak, $100 million for short lines, and $3.4 b for, essentially capital grants to States. While AA WA would surely support Amtrak and short lines, where our communication with Congress NOW should probably focus on the $3.4 b to States. Thanks to years of good and now ongoing planning by WSDOT, Washington has “shovel ready” projects. We have projects “ready to go” within 90 days, unlike many other States who will want a piece of the Pie. While these stimulus monies will not, I believe, require a specific State match, other proposed federal passenger train funding would. Getting a decent slice of stimulus funds would help convince the Legislature to go for a match when needed.

      (Yes, the following is “spoken” loudly! Won’t happen often.)

      PLEASE CONTACT YOUR US SENATORS AND CONGRESSPERSON BEFORE JANUARY 9! PHONE CALLS OR FAXED LETTERS (TO DEECEE OFFICES), PHONE CALLS OR MAILED LETTWERS TO IN-STATE OFFICES ARE BEST. Emails are OK, but less effective; Congress gets so many. Those receiving this Report will probably know “what to say” generally. But I will be available to assist you with help, either in form, content ,or Congressional contact numbers, if you wish. Oh, if you want to push for a higher than $5 b, go for it, but make your case a credible one.’’

      IF you are serious about wanting more passenger train service in our State and country, RIGHT NOW is the unprecedented opportunity. While you need not share you letters or content of calls if you choose not to, I do want to hear that you HAVE done the communication.

      I’ll be waiting to hear of YOUR direct efforts to increases passenger train service! While we all will need to work our Legislature soon, ,right now it’s Work DeeCee Time!”

      Cheers, and Happy New Year, Mike.

  1. maintenance projects would be shovel ready for the federal stimulus funds. if the federal funds covered bridging the gap projects, the Seattle funds could be redeployed on unfunded needs such as the Magnolia Bridge and sidewalks. King County could seek funds for the South Park bridge.

  2. If we shoved $5bn in Sound Transit’s hands right away, can you imagine how quickly things would ramp up here? It would undercut inflation fast enough that it could be feasible that we could drag out East Link or North Link pretty quickly.

    1. It would cut the timeframe off by a bit, but it would cut the debt service off by a huge amount.

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