CALPIRG, Smart Growth America Slam State Stimulus Spending

With the passage of the stimulus bill last spring, states had a
120 day deadline to obligate at least half of the transportation funding allocated to them. To mark that federal deadline, CALPIRG and Smart
Growth America released a report today detailing how California is spending its stimulus money.

The
news isn’t good. 

Despite all the right rhetoric about weening the
state off its car-dependency, California is actually spending more of
its stimulus funds on highway projects, particularly highway widening, than the
national average. The Golden State is spending more money adding
highway capacity than 41 other states. Eleven other states, including
the progressive transportation hotbeds of South Dakota and Alaska,
didn’t spend a dime on highway expansion. The following chart gives a bit more detail:

6_29_09_calpirg.jpgChart: California Public Interest Research Group

Using stimulus funds to further the destructive cycle of
highway widening
isn’t just bad transportation policy, it’s also bad
use of stimulus funds. Highway widening is one of the least
effective transportation projects when it comes to injecting money into
local economies, particularly when compared to transit.

Added to California’s failure to curtail highway expansion is the state’s abandonment of funding transit operations. Though the state’s governor
jet-commutes to work and doesn’t seem to care about sustainable funding for transit, in its press
release, CALPIRG notes that the majority of Californians want money to be spent improving transportation infrastructure, including transit.

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, as evidenced by local
ballot measures like Measure R in Los Angeles to build more public
transportation, and the statewide high-speed rail ballot measure passed
last fall.

The stimulus bill was a chance for states
and transportation agencies to begin to make the kind of changes that
people are crying out for when it comes to transportation planning. A few states have made that commitment, but sadly California
isn’t one of them.

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Smarter Stimulus Spending

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So how can states best spend their stimulus money? How can livable streets advocates keep it from going to useless highway widening and other sprawl-inducing projects? Smart Growth America, a key partner in the Transportation for America campaign, has some ideas, which are detailed in a report called Spending the Stimulus (you can find the […]