Funding Decisions Missed Opportunity to Make Progress on Transportation

Media Contacts
Jason Donofrio

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

A new report released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Smart Growth America, based on official data of the states’ American Reinvestment and Recovery Act transportation funding decisions thus far, found Arizona failed to capitalize on an opportunity to invest in a 21st Century Transportation System.

Research cited in the report shows that road and bridge repair generates 16 percent more jobs than new bridge and road construction. And because repair work can generally be started faster, these jobs would come on-line faster.

The ARRA provided $26.6 billion in flexible transportation funding—half of it required to be obligated within the first 120 days, by Monday, June 29, 2009—through the federal Surface Transportation Program (STP). Arizona was allotted $527 million through this process. STP funds can be used by state and Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) officials for a wide range of transportation infrastructure projects, including: public transportation capacity, sidewalks, repair and preventive maintenance of bridges and roads, and new and widened roads and highways.

State findings

Arizona and the Stimulus reveals how Arizona is continuing transportation business as usual which will lead to more challenges and less solutions,” stated Alex Nelson, representative of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “Arizona has missed an opportunity to create more jobs and improve public safety by fixing our crumbling roads and bridges and investing in public transportation.”

According to the report, 32% of Arizona’s roads are not in “good” condition; yet, of the $527 million allocated to Arizona in stimulus funds, the state and its MPOs have chosen to spend over $205 million dollars on new roads. More road repair would save drivers money from damage to their cars. Poor roads in Arizona cost drivers $207.

When asked in a poll by the National Association of Realtors how they would spend the recovery money, a very strong majority of Americans (80%) said they prefer that stimulus transportation funding be used for repairing roadways and bridges and for public transportation. The public wants a balanced transportation system. Arizona, however, used the stimulus largely as a highway program.

National findings

Smart Growth America found that some states used the stimulus money to make progress on the kind of transportation system that their communities need for strong economic growth. Other states missed an opportunity to make progress in filling their urgent transportation needs and creating more jobs, as quickly as possible. These states, built new roads rather than repairing existing ones, and missed the chance to invest in the new options their residents really want like safe bus routes and bike paths.

The states had opportunities to create more jobs, faster: shifting more spending towards repair would create more jobs. Shifting $2 billion more to repair would have produced an average of 4,300 more jobs nationally. And because repair work can generally be started faster, these jobs would come on-line faster.

“Selection of stimulus transportation projects so far shows how badly we need to change the way states make decisions that affect our commutes, our pocketbooks, and our lives,” Geoff Anderson, president of Smart Growth America concluded. “To make that happen, future federal transportation funding must include clear goals and accountability for reaching those goals.”

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