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Will Cities Get Some of the Stimulus Money?

So the wheeling and dealing over the stimulus bill is done, and the spending, presumably, is soon to begin. Members of the Streetsblog Network are looking at what it means for their communities.

399491674_ba8c582836.jpgPhoto by elventear via Flickr.
In the case of Wisconsin, according to James Rowen at The Political Environment, the biggest roads serving suburban and exurban areas are the state's highest priority, while projects in the densely populated urban core of Milwaukee are put at a real disadvantage by the criteria and time frame for spending the money.

The mayor of Milwaukee,Tom Barrett, wrote a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation pointing out the difficulty he faces in getting funding for work on municipal streets and bridges. It's worth looking at it because it articulates a conundrum faced by cities around the country:

I don't know if WisDOT is getting insight or direction from the Federal Government on how the stimulus funding must be used or if WisDOT has some flexibility and discretion on how to administer the use of the stimulus funding, but the criteria and process that you have outlined not only prohibits all of the street and bridge work we originally identified but it significantly limits the number of local projects that could utilize such funding.

The types of projects and the level of detail …that you are asking us to submit by March 17, 2009, generally requires 2 to 3 years to develop under WisDOT processes. It is impossible to advance such a project in one month. The only way we could possibly meet your criteria is if we submit projects that have already been developed and planned for…and possibly redirect the funding that has been authorized for these projects to future projects.

However, this doesn't accomplish the intent of the stimulus plan to generate immediate additional work above and beyond what is already scheduled.

To that end, I strongly urge the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to determine some way for the local communities that have the capabilities, such as the City of Milwaukee, to directly utilize a portion of the stimulus funding for projects that can have an immediate impact in putting people to work.

Our $43 million in local street and bridge work would provide that immediate impact. I respectfully request a meeting with you and your staff to discuss any possible options that might be available to us.

Do you know of similar situations in other municipalities? We'd like to hear about them. Send information to tips [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

Elsewhere around the network, Planning Livable Communities looks at new studies that show just how dangerous it is to drive while talking on the phone -- even hands-free; Greater Greater Washington wonders if the death of a 14-year-old cyclist will lead to safety improvements on a road engineered solely for cars; and GreenCityBlueLake reports on the growing push for intercity rail in Ohio.