The Department of Transportation is pushing more stimulus money out to states to reimburse them for completed infrastructure projects, with total payouts reaching nearly $26.7 billion as of March 11.
That's up from $26.5 billion on March 4 and $26.3 billion Feb. 25, reflecting DOT payments totaling nearly $200 million in each of the past two weeks. From Feb. 28 through March 11, the DOT paid out $521 million in stimulus project reimbursements, according to the Obama administration's Recovery.gov Web site.
In all, the DOT had $48 billion to spend from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, so it has more than $21 billion left to pay out. Through March 11, it had obligated over $44.7 billion to back active or planned projects, leaving more than $3 billion yet to lock down.
However, those totals will soon change to reflect a new grant implementing agreement signed this week between North Carolina's Department of Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, Amtrak and other parties. That allows the state to spend $461 million on grant projects under the administration's intercity passenger rail program, much of it to improve tracks in a key corridor used by NS for intermodal service, and will push the DOT's total of obligated ARRA funds up to $45.2 billion.
In addition, the DOT recently offered up $2.43 billion in unused passenger rail funds for new project bids, with most of that money coming from stimulus grants rejected by Florida. Applicants have until April 4 to send in their requests, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the DOT will quickly decide how to allocate those funds.
After the grant money is awarded, it can still take months to lock in final terms among the parties sharing the money or the track lanes, but DOT officials say they are well ahead of ARRA schedule requirements. That law set a September 2012 deadline to obligate remaining passenger rail grants, but federal officials expect to finish more than a year earlier.
Once the money is obligated, states or other grant recipients can move ahead on project engineering and construction. LaHood says thousands of stimulus projects -- ranging from highway and bridge construction to freight, passenger rail and port work -- have already been completed and paid for, while thousands more are under way.
But with billions of dollars left to obligate and other agreements just recently signed, other projects won't get under way for months at the earliest. So the DOT will keep reimbursing states out of stimulus funds for years to come.
-- Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.