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.