Report: Nation’s Cities Getting Stiffed on Stimulus

The nation’s largest metropolitan areas — which account for 63 percent
of the U.S. population and 73 percent of the gross domestic product
(GDP) — have received less than half of the surface transportation
money allocated so far under the Obama administration’s economic
stimulus plan, according to a new report compiled for the U.S.
Conference of Mayors.

3625935741_b76f0fa791_m.jpgManny Diaz, outgoing president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Photo: usmayors/Flickr

The transportation stimulus report was released over the weekend during the mayoral conference’s annual meeting, which lost high-profile attendees to a firefighters’ strike in the host city of Providence, Rhode Island.

Its
data suggests that cities, while they remain economic engines and
shoulder much of the environmental cost of congestion, are getting the
short end of the stick from state DOTs that have control over a
significant share of stimulus money.

The top 85 American
metro areas have received $8.8 billion, or 48 percent, of the $18.6
billion in stimulus aid given to state DOTs by the Federal Highway
Administration, according to the mayoral conference’s report.

The
report found several cities that generate a large amount of economic
activity for their states getting a comparatively small share of
transportation aid. Los Angeles, for example, contributes 39 percent of
California’s GDP but received 25 percent of its stimulus money.
Indianapolis fared even worse, netting just four percent of Indiana’s
transportation stimulus money while generating 39 percent of the
state’s GDP.

Using congestion estimates from the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) most recent Urban Mobility study, the mayoral conference’s report also found that urban areas have not received stimulus money to match their traffic burden.

New
York City pays 9.4 percent of the nation’s congestion costs, according
to the TTI, but has received 3.6 percent of the nation’s road-repair
money. San Francisco’s congestion costs are 3.1 percent of the national
total, but its share of FHWA stimulus aid was 0.4 percent.

Whether
road-repair money should be distributed primarily on the basis of
economic production or congestion remains open to debate. However, the
mayoral conference concluded simply that state DOTs "should take into
account" the economic production of cities in order to maximize the
impact of the stimulus’ transportation dollars.

"To do so
would prompt states and federal decision-makers to increase their
funding commitments to the nation’s metro economies, raising the
productivity level of their investments," the report concluded.

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