Choosing Easy with Stimulus MoneyAugust 7th, 2009 by Steven Gardner
Been meaning to post this for some time. Stimulus money, in this AP story, is creating construction jobs for roads as intended, but it’s not going to many bad bridges.
President Barack Obama urged Congress last winter to pass his $787 billion stimulus package so some of the economic recovery money could be used to rebuild what he called America’s “crumbling bridges.” Lawmakers said it was a historic chance to chip away at the $65 billion backlog of deficient structures, often neglected until a catastrophe like the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed two years ago this Saturday.
States, however, have other plans. Of the 2,476 bridges scheduled to receive stimulus money so far, nearly half have passed inspections with high marks, according to federal data. Those 1,123 sound bridges received such high inspection ratings that they normally would not qualify for federal bridge money, yet they will share in more than $1.2 billion in stimulus money.
This doesn’t mean those bridges won’t get worked on eventually, but the emphasis on the initial infusion of cash was on what were called “shovel-ready” projects. Bridges take a lot more planning, while road repaving can be acted on quickly.
Some states were prescient enough to plan to make their bridges ready quickly, but most didn’t. Though my recollection of the stimulus package was that it was to get things done quickly, one of the selling points was that it would go to bad bridges.
The story ends in our state, showing that targeting bad bridges with stimulus money was difficult.