Stimulus Report Card: One Year Later

More than 12,000 stimulus transportation projects have been put out to bid since last February, 2009.

WASHINGTON - As the anniversary of the passage of the U.S. economic stimulus plan looms and President Barack Obama presses for new jobs legislation, states and the government are assessing the impact the program has had on transportation.

"The transportation industry was the poster child of the stimulus," said Larry "Butch" Brown, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Even though transportation did not receive the bulk of funding from the $787 billion package of spending measures and tax breaks, roads and bridge projects have been scrutinized by the public, he said during a conference call with reporters.

More than 12,000 stimulus transportation projects have been put out to bid since last February, the congressional committee tracking that funding said on Tuesday

That represents 77 percent of the funding for highway and transit programs included in the two-year stimulus plan, according to the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Work on 9,241 projects totaling $20.6 billion, or 60 percent of the stimulus funds, has begun, and 3,148 projects have been completed, it said.

By the committee's count, the road and bridge work has created or saved 280,000 jobs, with a payroll of $1.4 billion, said Committee Chairman James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat.

Maine leads all states, with 100 percent of its transportation allotment already invested in road and bridge projects that are underway or already completed, according to the committee.

California leads the states in infrastructure-related stimulus jobs. The state has saved or created 33,383 jobs, with more than half in public transportation.

By emphasizing "shovel-ready" transportation projects that could be started quickly, the stimulus plan was intended to put many of the unemployed back to work immediately.

Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, nearly 2 million construction workers have lost their jobs, according to Laborers' International Union of North America, largely due to the slowdown in home building after the collapse of the housing market.

The highway officials group found in a study released Tuesday that most of the $34.3 billion provided for highways and transit had been put out to bid.

Bids ran as low as 30 percent below estimates, which freed up cash for more transportation projects. California, Georgia and Texas awarded more than 90 percent of their highway contracts below original cost estimates.

As of January 7, 1,125 bridges had been improved or replaced and 21,400 miles of paved roads had been resurfaced or widened, it said.

The surveys were released just as the U.S. Senate came closer to finalizing its "jobs bill," a piece of legislation Obama hopes will continue the successful parts of the stimulus plan and offer assistance to those hurt by the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression 80 years ago.

The Senate bill would extend many federal highway programs and also offer formula grants for public transportation. The House of Representatives passed its jobs bill at the end of last year.

Source: Reuters, Lisa Lambert