The Department of Transportation’s stimulus project disbursements pushed over the $1 billion mark for the first time, as payouts for approved infrastructure projects speeded up in the week ending July 31.
A federal Web site that tracks weekly approvals and disbursements from the $787 billion Recovery Act said DOT lists $23.4 billion in projects approved as of that date, out of $48 billion it will eventually spend.
Actual spending jumped by $227 million from July 24, to reach $1.147 billion. Critics have said the stimulus spending is paying out too slowly to lift the economy, but DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has maintained the payments will quickly escalate this summer as early projects reach the stage where they can turn in bills for work completed.
Some of the already approved projects are also just ramping up and signing engineers, so their actual construction payments will not flow for a few more months.
But plenty of projects are already under way, most of them covered by federal highway accounts that can include some port and freight rail projects but are mostly spent on fixing roads and bridges.
DOT said $680 million was disbursed through July for projects authorized by the Federal Highway Administration. That agency says more than 2,400 active projects involving every state are supported by about $7.5 billion in authorizations, and that is less than half the total project requests it has approved so far.
About $39 million has been spent so far in airport improvement grants, out of about $1 billion approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, so that spending is just revving up.
Across all federal agencies, total stimulus spending reached $73 billion by July 31 and approvals so far totaled $197 billion. Those range from extra railroad retirement benefit payments to payroll tax cuts and unemployment assistance.
Yet to come are a barrage of rail projects under an $8 billion high-speed passenger rail fund in the Recovery Act, but which will affect freight and passenger rail corridors around the nation. LaHood also has a $1.5 billion untargeted fund that he said will give special attention to port needs.
Both of those DOT accounts are still taking state requests for projects and will be making awards in coming weeks and months.
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.