Keywords: infrastructure, economy, regulation, Washington, states
DOT Stimulus Obligations Hit $45.5 Billion
Some passenger rail grants from 2009 economic package still open
John D. Boyd
META: DOT's total of obligated funds from the 2009 economic stimulus package reached $45.5 billion as of April 8
The Department of Transportation's total of obligated funds from the 2009 economic stimulus package reached $45.5 billion as of April 8, closing in on the $48.1 billion total it was authorized to spend.
Most of the remainder is left in rail project grants, for which the department took applications through April 4. Last week's budget deal for 2011 also called back $400 million in rail grants from 2010 that were not yet awarded, but left the 2009 stimulus grant funds alone.
The High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program spends most of its money and attention on projects to start or expand regular-speed Amtrak passenger train service within freight rail corridors.
Federal and state officials say it generates significant benefits for the host freight rail lines as well, by adding or upgrading tracks and signals for more efficient train operations. New governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida rejected passenger rail grants awarded earlier, but other states quickly appealed for the funds. Besides the remaining stimulus money the DOT has to redistribute, some of the previous grants it awarded still require implementation agreements that specify how the money will be spent.
Just before the congressional agreement came last week to finalize budget cuts, the DOT formally obligated another $300 million in grants that it earlier awarded to various state projects.
The DOT also said, in its latest weekly report on the Recovery.gov Web site, that through April 8 it has reimbursed states nearly $27.3 billion for completed stimulus projects, up about $180 million from a week earlier. Although construction can take years to wrap up and generate final DOT payouts, the work can proceed and generate an economic impact once a formal go-head agreement is in place, so it is the obligations rather than catch-up DOT reimbursements that generate jobs.
Most of the payouts have gone to cover work completed on roads and bridges. The Federal Highway Administration said its stimulus funds were obligated to 13,300 construction projects, of which 7,100 have been finished.