Last week, Smart Growth America released a report about how states spent their flexible transportation funds from 2009’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act and whether the projects funded with that money created the most jobs possible. The research revealed that most states failed to invest in projects that create the most jobs per dollar: namely, public transportation and road repair and maintenance. Money spent on paving new roads, by contrast, creates fewer jobs per dollar spent, making it a worse value for the government’s money.
The mounting criticism of states’ use of their stimulus funds is coming from people who want to see the U.S. economy recover quickly and effectively. Investing in public projects that create jobs in the short term and economic sustainability in the long term – as public transportation and road repair do – is one of the best ways to do that. As former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening explains in an editorial in The Hill:
Past decisions about transportation spending are detours, not dead ends. While the golden opportunity of ARRA funding has passed, state and federal governments can learn the lessons of ARRA and meet President Obama’s challenge to do what is best for the economy.
Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog highlights the point that states have to make smarter investment decisions if they want to see results:
In just the last month, several reports have quantified…how investing in transportation infrastructure pays off in jobs and economic health. Now Smart Growth America is out with new research showing that it’s not enough to plunk down a bunch of money and expect miracles. You’ve got to do it right.
Megan Owens, spokeswoman for Transportation Riders United explained to The Detroit News that even though Michigan doesn’t spend that much on new roads, the state’s public transportation spending doesn’t even come close:
“We can do a better job of spending on public transportation, especially when you see that SMART and DDOT are looking at cutbacks…We spent as much on widening a few miles of M-59 in Oakland County as we did for all of public transportation in southeastern Michigan.”