|Photo: Flickr/Chris Devers.|
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 more jobs per dollar: namely, public transportation and road repair and maintenance. Money spent on building new roads, by contrast, creates fewer jobs per dollar spent, making it a poor value for taxpayer’s money.
Investing in public transportation and road repair are two of the best ways for states to create jobs in the short term and economic growth in the long term. Response to the report has notably highlighted the missed opportunity here for fast, effective job creation, but as former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening explains in The Hill, not all is lost:
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.
Changes to the way states make spending decisions will be key. Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog notes, 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.
People who want to see states spend their transportation funds more effectively are calling out officials who make business-as-usual excuses. Megan Owens, spokeswoman for Transportation Riders United explained to The Detroit News that even though Michigan (like many states) doesn’t spend a much on new roads, it’s still vastly larger than any public transportation spending:
“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.”
Here’s what others are saying:
This news comes on the heels of another study that found that building bike path infrastructure creates twice as many jobs as repairing roads. Either way you look at it, both are better than building new roads for more cars. Once again, sustainability is better for your lungs and your pocketbook.
When it comes to job creation, some infrastructure investments are more wisely made than others. That much was clear from a recent case study outlining the employment potential of building bicycle lanes, and a new report draws a similar conclusion, this time touting public transportation projects as better job producers when compared with road construction work.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said states spent $48 billion in economic stimulus funds during the past two years, creating 15,000 projects that put thousands of people to work, in a conference call Friday with reporters.
He also said Friday that he is “optimistic” that Congress will clear a long-term surface transportation reauthorization by the August recess.
In Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper and his team are putting together a plan for the next four years, and I urge them to consider carefully the substance and direction of the 2012 state budget. The decisions they make will directly impact the lives and livelihoods of the so many thousands in this state who are hoping for growth and opportunity, who are hoping to be a part of the nation that out-innovates, out-educates, and out-builds.
It’s not easy to create jobs, and as a business leader, I can say with some confidence that more spending doesn’t always lead to an improved economy. To move forward, we must spend what we have more wisely.