Stimulus Bill Heavily Weighted to Highways, As Expected

Last week, I reported on some transportation advocates' concern about a jobs stimulus bill:

[L]awmakers are working on a stimulus bill that would spend tens of billions of dollars on infrastructure but do little to remake a flawed financing and planning system. That's a missed opportunity, according to some observers, who are concerned that a stimulus, while better than nothing, would fall short of its potential by ignoring the issues that the surface transport bill aims to address. An inventory of "shovel-ready" projects released this week by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials offered no specifics, raising concerns that money could go to adding miles of asphalt to the nation's highway system while failing to address decaying roads and bridges....

The results are in on the job stimulus bill, which passed the House last night, and it looks like the worriers were right. Granted, the point of the bill is to create jobs, not reform transportation, but the money pretty much mirrors the funding structure of the original February stimulus, and more broadly reflects the heavily highway-focused method of transportation spending the federal government has long favored. Of the $39 billion in the bill, more than 70 percent--$27.5 billion--will go to highways, picking up for the ailing Highway Trust Fund. Mass transit does get the next biggest slice of the pie, $8.4 billion; the rest goes to Amtrak, airports, ship construction, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Streetsblog Capitol Hill rounds up the complaints of some critics who say that transit jobs are a far cheaper and more effective way to combat unemployment.

Also on Wednesday, the House passed an extension of the current surface transportation bill, which expired in September and has been extended since. With the extension, the bill would be authorized through the end of February.