We can put thousands back to work quickly and responsibly with smart transportation spending

Investing first in repair and maintenance can prevent another disaster like Minnesota’s I-35W bridge collapse. Tell your Governor to invest in the future with smart, proven, ready-to-go transportation spending.
Creative Commons Flickr photo by Poppyseed Bandits.

Earlier this week, we highlighted a new Smart Growth America report that details 20 proven and ready-to-go ways for states to spend transportation stimulus dollars that don’t involve building new highway lanes.

So how will your state spend its transportation stimulus funds? Will the legacy be an unnecessary new outer beltway like the one proposed in Houston? Will your state spend scarce funds on new highway lanes while existing roads crumble? Could your state be home to the next major bridge collapse?

Did you know that states are permitted to spend the transportation stimulus money on more than just new roads? The money was given to states through a federal program that funds surface transportation: transit, roads, sidewalks, and almost any other kind of project, including most kinds of repair. Congress gave highways no special priority. It is up to the states to decide how and where to spend the money.

If you don’t think this money should be spent on unnecessary new highway projects, you’re not alone. Polling data taken before the stimulus passed showed that most Americans believed stimulus funding should repair existing highways and public transit rather than building new highways.

But many states are moving ahead with new 1950s-style highway projects that their citizens may not support.

The report we released this week lays out 20 proven and ready-to-go ways that state officials can and should spend the federal funding on projects that will address long-neglected transportation priorities while providing speedy and robust job creation and economic recovery.

One idea for spending the stimulus money is by completing the streets to make them accessible and safe for all users. As Barbara McCann with the National Complete Streets Coalition points out on the Infrastructurist, these sorts of smaller projects can get underway rapidly, and often have robust local stimulative effects:

This approach is, in fact, quite stimulative in addition to its other benefits. Many of these projects are small enough in scale to ramp up quickly, are more labor-intensive (resulting in more job creation), and often employ small, local firms that will keep the money in the community.

The report identifies other projects like repairing roads, bridges, transit facilities, buses, rail tracks and stations; supporting public transportation to meet burgeoning demand; and easing road congestion by making better use of the roads we have, to name a few.

Tell your Governor to make sure that the transportation stimulus spending boosts the economy while making the kinds of smart infrastructure investments that are not just shovel-ready, but future-ready.

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