Report: More jobs when stimulus funds spent to repair roads

States that created the most jobs with infrastructure funds from the 2009 economic stimulus put the money into maintaining and repairing public transportation compared with states that built new roads and bridges. 

With the two-year anniversary of the stimulus approaching, Smart Growth America (SGA) released a report Friday that looks at how successful states were in creating jobs when spending the $26.6 billion in flexible spending funds provided in the 2009 economic stimulus. 


Overall, states spent $15.7 billion of the stimulus transportation funds on repairing and maintaining roads and bridges, $8.9 billion on building new ones, $1 billion on bike projects and $462.8 million on public transportation projects.

Historically, investments in public transportation generate 31 percent more jobs per dollar than new construction of roads and bridges, according to SGA. 

SGA’s findings show that the payoff was even larger in stimulus spending, with public transportation projects producing 70 percent more jobs per dollar than road projects.

The same statistics show that repair work on roads and bridges generates 16 percent more jobs per dollar than new bridge and road construction. Repair and maintenance projects spend money faster and create jobs more quickly than building new roads because they employ more kinds of workers, spend less money on land and more on wages, and spend less time on plans and permits.

"We encourage all states to learn lessons from ARRA and consider allocating a greater portion of their 2011 transportation budgets to repair and maintenance of roads and bridges and then public transportation," said Geoff Anderson, president and chief executive of SGA. "They create jobs, save money and put people back to work—all while keeping costs down by addressing the enormous backlog of badly needed road, bridge and transit repairs.”

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said states spent $48 billion in economic stimulus funds during the past two years, creating 15,000 projects that put thousands of people to work, in a conference call Friday with reporters. 

He also said Friday that he is "optimistic" that Congress will clear a long-term surface transportation reauthorization by the August recess. 

During his State of the Union address, President Obama said the nation needs to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world” to win the future. 

To rebuild America, "we will aim to put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges,” he said.

Eight states spent 100 percent of their flexible transportation funds from the stimulus to preserve existing roads and bridges, ranking them top among all states in job creation. 

Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Kansas and Arkansas spent the majority of funds building new roads and bridges and comprised the bottom five in terms of average jobs created per dollar spent. 

"However, the vast majority of states find themselves in a very different situation, with large unmet maintenance and repair," the report found. 

In a national poll SGA conducted in November, 91 percent of voters said maintaining and repairing roads and bridges should be the top or a high priority for state spending on transportation programs, and 68 percent say that improving and expanding public transportation options should be the top or a high priority.