DOT Stimulus Payouts Top $23.4 Billion

DOT Stimulus Payouts Top $23.4 Billion

The Department of Transportation’s reimbursements to states to pay for stimulus-backed projects swelled to $23.426 billion as of Nov. 26, an increase of more than $1.4 billion from Oct. 29.

Those new figures from the Recovery.gov Web site show the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is still sending a lot of federal money to the states to cover transportation construction and repairs.

Out of $48.1 billion that the DOT could spend under the stimulus, it committed $40.7 billion through Nov. 26 so states could proceed with projects. Some of them are already completed, but thousands are under way or being planned. The DOT sends final payments when the work is completed and verified.

Stimulus Spending news from JOC:
DOT Stimulus Spending Tops $22.6 Billion.

The amount still unspent sometimes triggers debate, and some Republicans who won election or re-election to Congress on Nov. 2 have said they will try to halt any unspent stimulus funds and use it to cut the federal budget deficit. However, states are already counting on money that has been formally obligated, even though the final DOT payouts come only at the end of roadway, bridge or airport work that sometimes takes years to complete.

The Federal Highway Administration oversees the largest amount of DOT stimulus funding with $27 billion. It says 5,800 construction or repair projects have already been completed, while another 6,200 are now under way and more than 1,000 others are yet to start work.

On Nov. 30, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood helped break ground on a bridge project to replace an old, ailing structure over the Ohio River between Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky. on U.S. route 421.

Officials have already put weight restrictions on it that limit freight truck usage, and a $20 million stimulus grant will help replace it with a wider bridge that will cost more than $131 million in all. The new bridge is expected to be ready for traffic in September 2012.

Most of the DOT’s remaining unobligated stimulus money is for projects from an $8 billion fund for a network of improved intercity passenger rail corridors. Those include a couple of true high-speed rail lines, but most of the money goes to regular or enhanced Amtrak passenger train service within lanes owned by freight railroads.

The Federal Railroad Administration says it has already obligated $1.6 billion in high-speed rail funds. However, nearly half of that is for a new service across Wisconsin that is opposed by the governor who takes office in January.

-- Contact John D. Boyd at jboyd@joc.com.