A new report out today from Smart Growth America analyzes how all 50 states invested their flexible transportation funds from 2009’s American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The report examines what projects each state used its funds for, and whether those projects created as many jobs as possible.
Transportation projects create jobs in the short term but can also create the foundation for a stronger economy in the long term – particularly if those projects repair existing roadways or create public transportation options. As Newsweek’s David A. Graham explains:
It’s not enough just to inject money into infrastructure, because not all transportation funding is created equal—or at least, it doesn’t create jobs at an equal rate. As any infrastructure policy wonk can tell you, money spent on fixing up existing systems or building mass transit delivers more jobs, and faster, than building new highways.
Smart Growth America’s new report found that many states didn’t invest their funds this way and in doing so missed a significant opportunity to create more jobs. As a companion to that report, Smart Growth America has released state-specific recommendations for states looking for ways to improve their transportation investments.
51% of voters in Connecticut believe fixing roads and bridges should be the top priority for the state (33% chose expanding transit and other choices, 16% chose expanding roads). Most voters in Connecticut – 59% – believe that the government has a duty to make sure that roads and bridges are safe and reliable.
Maryland voters who said they would feel more positive toward their governor if he favored a transportation plan that repaired and maintained roads and bridges (74%) versus building new roads and bridges (37%). 83% of Maryland voters believe spending on road repair and maintenance produces good value and 71% believe expanding transit would do the same, versus just 42% who believe spending on road expansion creates good value. More than 95% of all voters in Maryland say maintenance and repair should be a “top” or “high” priority for state transportation funding in 2011.
68% of Michiganders believe fixing roads and bridges should be the top priority for the state. 25% chose expanding transit and other choices, and 7% chose expanding roads. Most voters in Michigan – including 69% of Republicans – believe the government has a duty to make sure that roads and bridges are safe and reliable.
Minnesota’s Accountability web site shows that the state has not met its own standards for pavement quality since 2002, and does not plan to meet them. And the current Statewide 20-year Highway Investment Plan expects to triple the number of state highway miles with pavement in poor condition, from about 600 miles today to more
than 1,600 miles by 2018.
56% of Oregonians believe fixing roads and bridges should be the top priority for the state (28% chose expanding transit and other choices; 16% chose expanding roads). $1 billion spent on fixing existing highways creates 16% more construction jobs than new road construction. And most voters in Oregon – 60% – believe that government has a duty to make sure that roads and bridges are safe and reliable.
If it continues on its current path, Rhode Island’s transportation system is on track to become highly expensive, uncompetitive, and unsafe. Rhode Island has invested heavily in transportation, but declining revenues and escalating debt service will reduce the state’s ability to maintain its facilities in a state of good repair.
Washington is at a crossroads. While there is still a sizable gap between revenue and the large wish list of projects, this gap can be closed if the state makes strategic decisions about how to get the highest return on its investment. By making fiscally responsible choices about the state’s transportation priorities, Washington can not only save money and create jobs, but it can also help preserve the transportation system and create a more welcoming
business climate on the mid- and long-term horizons.