Highway-led spending pushed total Department of Transportation payments under the Recovery Act to $2.621 billion through Sept. 4, for an increase of $267 million from a week earlier.
Of the department’s total disbursements, the Federal Highway Administration said it has spent $1.58 billion mostly for highway and bridge repairs.
At present it still has about 3,500 construction projects under way valued at more than $10 billion. More projects have already been approved, but the agency still has $8.5 billion more to award.
Not all of it will be to repair existing infrastructure. FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez went to Minnesota Sept. 3 for a groundbreaking of that state’s largest stimulus-funding project, which will use $27 million from a recovery grant to build three miles of new highway in Hennepin County.
Across all federal agencies, project spending under the $787 billion, two-year Recovery Act reached $93.6 billion by Sept. 4, in addition to tax relief in the plan.
But critics say it is still spending out too slowly. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a Sept. 9 letter that while the stimulus is helping to stop the economic downturn, it needs to speed up.
“In the construction industry, where the national unemployment rate sits at 17 percent, too many workers remain idle, even as the building season in the northern part of our country threatens to slip away,” Lieberman said in the message to Peter Orszag, director of the president’s Office of Management and Budget, and his deputy director, Robert Nabors.
The senator said the stimulus program appears on track to end up close to initial projections to provide about $65 billion in tax relief by the end of September, and spend about $107 billion under agency programs.
“But we cannot be satisfied with our initial goals,” Lieberman wrote. “The stubborn persistence of high unemployment, with rates still rising, means we must redouble our commitment.”
He said because many contracts are coming in at less cost than planned “we have more dollars to spend on worthy projects” and must put all the money to work as fast as possible to blunt the continuing impact of the recession.
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.