DOT Stimulus Spending Nears $5 Billion

DOT Stimulus Spending Nears $5 Billion

The Department of Transportation by Oct. 23 had approved $30 billion in project spending under the stimulus law, and cut checks totaling $4.85 billion.

That payout level was up from $3.65 billion at the end of September, DOT said, and reflected weekly disbursements in the range of $300 million.

Most of DOT’s stimulus spending is through the Federal Highway Administration, which last week said its total for approved projects topped $20 billion. That represented more than 75 percent of the $26.6 billion set aside under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for spending on quick-start highway and bridge projects.

Some states have also put some of their highway stimulus funds into projects that support river or ocean ports and freight railroad links, but nearly all the FHWA money goes to road and bridge construction or repairs.

The system first has states submit applications to receive DOT approvals, then they award contracts, order materials and hire workers. They later send bills to the federal government as the work proceeds. That means the reimbursements to states will continue over the next year or longer as projects are completed and final bills are turned in.

DOT spending also includes airport projects, plus some transit and commuter rail work. Some other departments are also paying out funds for transportation projects, including Coast Guard projects to upgrade railroad bridges over navigable rivers, Environmental Protection Agency grants to refit diesel trucks and other vehicles, and Homeland Security spending on border facilities for cargo inspection.

That does not include last summer’s $3 billion “cash for clunkers” automobile trade-in incentives program, which Congress approved as a separate stimulus measure.

The DOT also plans to tap two big funds under the stimulus bill this winter, having delayed making the awards from the expected early autumn timetable after federal officials were deluged with huge grant requests.

One is an $8 billion pot for passenger and high-speed rail development that will include large investments in freight rail corridors that passenger trains use.

The other is a $1.5 billion discretionary grants fund that allows the secretary of transportation to spend on sectors like seaport facilities that were not specifically covered in the Recovery Act, and on projects he deems of special significance.

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