State departments of transportation have met their first "use it or lose it" deadline under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, obligating half of their stimulus funds for highway projects. The number of ARRA highway and transit project starts has risen sharply in recent weeks, but actual outlays remain small, according to reports from a key House committee.

Emphasizing the ARRA progress, the White House and U.S. DOT said on June 25 that $19 billion has been obligated for more than 5,300 highway and other transportation projects.

ARRA requires states to obligate--commit to specifid projects--at least 50% of their highway stimulus allocations by June 29. If not, the unobligated portions would revert to U.S. DOT to be redistributed to other states.

But no redistribution will be necessary. "Every state not only met the 120-day deadline, they beat it," said DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

Maine was the first to achieve the 50% mark, reaching the goal on March 6, just 17 days after ARRA was signed into law.

Hawaii was the last state to meet the requirement, hitting the mark on June 19.

As of June 22, the Federal Highway Administration had authorized more than 5,000 projects and obligated $15.7 billion, Jeffrey Paniati, the Federal Highway Administration's acting deputy administrator, told a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on June 25.

States also are making gains in getting ARRA road-construction projects under contract and under construction. House transportation committee Chairman James Oberstar said that based on reports to his panel through May 31, 4,098 ARRA highway and transit projects had gone out to bid and 2,294 of those were under contracts that totaled $6.5 billion.

He added that of the projects under contract, work had started on 1,243, whose total value is $4.4 billion.

Oberstar said that the numbers of projects under contract and under construction had jumped more than 200% over the figures reflected in April 30 reports.

To view reports to Oberstar's committee, click here.

But the transportation committee's Republican members issued their own report, which shows that of the $48.1 billion that ARRA provided to DOT, only $369 million had been paid to states. That outlay total represents less than 1% of DOT's total ARRA funds.

Ten Leaders and Laggards
States with dates they reached 50% of highway stimulus funds allocated
State’s running fastest...    
  Date 50% allocated Amount in $mil
Maine March 6 $91
Illinois March 10 $598
Iowa March 11 $223
Utah March 12 $145
Oklahoma March 16 $307
...and slowest    
Hawaii June 19 $46
Nevada June 18 $71
Ohio June 18 $338
Georgia June 17 $377
Virginia June 17 $285
Delaware June 17 $44
Source : U.S. DOT

And Oberstar said that ARRA highway and transit projects under way have produced or saved about 21,000 direct jobs on site plus "thousands of indirect jobs" at construction-materials companies and equipment manufacturers. Nevertheless, he adds that "there is much work left to be done," noting that construction had lost more than 1.2 million jobs over the December 2007-May 2009 period.

Other DOT agency heads also gave ARRA status reports. The Federal Aviation Administration had awarded $725 million, or 66%, of its $1.1 billion in ARRA funds for airport grants by June 17, said Administrator Randolph Babbitt.
That exceeded the law's requirement of FAA's awarding 50% those funds by that date.

Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff said his agency had obligated more than $1.7 billion of its $8.3 billion in stimulus funds.