As the incoming Obama administration and congressional Democrats work on an economic stimulus plan, state transportation officials say there are more than 5,100 jobs-creating highway projects worth $64.3 billion that could get under way quickly if funding became available.
The $64-billion total in the report, released Dec. 5 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, is more than triple the sum contained in a survey AASHTO conducted in January.
The new AASHTO survey almost certainly will be studied by Obama's advisors and congressional Democrats as they craft the stimulus proposal. But getting the full $64 billion in the expected measure appears to be a long shot--that figure is roughly 50% higher than the total federal-aid highway appropriation for the current fiscal year.
In all, AASHTO's survey says, there are 5,148 highway and bridge projects, totaling $64.3 billion, "ready to go"--meaning that their contracts could be let within 180 days. AASHTO estimates that those projects would support 1.8 million jobs. The survey reflects responses from the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
A January 2008 AASHTO survey counted 3,071 projects worth $17.9 billion that were ready to begin. That report was based on replies from 47 states and the District of Columbia.
In the latest survey, Utah ranks first, with $10.8 billion in highway projects ready to move. The Utah Dept. of Transportation had announced on Nov. 20 that it was putting $3.9 billion worth of projects on hold because of a decline in state revenue.
Ranking behind Utah on the AASHTO list are: Florida, with slightly less than $7 billion; Texas, $6 billion; North Carolina, $5.2 billion; and California, $5 billion.
John Horsley, AASHTO executive director, noted that because of budget squeezes in many states, their transportation agencies have had to put off important road projects. Horsley added, "This survey shows that state DOTs are ready to quickly put the economic stimulus dollars and people to work.
In other transportation sectors, there are 559 transit projects totaling $8 billion ready to begin if funding is approved, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
The Airports Council International-North America cites information from the Federal Aviation Administration indicating that there are airport projects worth $600 million ready to start, if funded.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has asked key committee chairman to begin drafting stimulus legislation that she says will be much larger than a $61-billion plan the chamber approved in September. That House bill, which didn't pass the Senate, included $12.8 billion for highways.President-elect Barack Obama has signaled that public-works funding, including aid for highways, is likely to be part of a stimulus plan expected to be proposed in January. But Obama hasn't said how big the package, or any of its possible elements, will be.