WASHINGTON – Maryland commuter Phil Previti travels every day between Boonsboro and Bethesda on Interstate 270, and says he has yet to see the benefit of federal stimulus dollars for Maryland roads.
“The construction they’ve done hasn’t really done anything but cause more problems as far as people are seeing,” Previti said.
Visible evidence aside, a new national report says Maryland has been successful in making infrastructure improvements with stimulus money.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials released the report, “Projects and Paychecks: a One-Year Report on State Transportation Successes under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” earlier this month, with detailed breakdowns of each state’s progress.
Maryland received about $415 million, or 1.5 percent of nearly $27 billion in federal transportation stimulus funds. The state’s $415 million is about average compared to other states, putting Maryland in 26th place of all 50 states for funds awarded.
The money Maryland received went to projects that were ready-to-go, or “shovel-ready,” said Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan, “all projects that don’t require months and years of planning like a new project would.”
The number of transportation projects Maryland has undertaken is 164, which puts it at 23rd nationally, and accounts for 1.5 percent of all projects.
Maryland does lag some in road projects, ranking 43rd in pavement improvements and 38th in overall road improvements, which are both measured by the number of miles fixed. At first glance those figures appear to be low, but data from the Federal Highway Administration shows that Maryland is only 40th in the nation for total public road miles.
Cahalan said trying to compare Maryland’s figures to those of a large state like California would be like comparing “apples to oranges,” adding that “(stimulus) funding comes to a state just like regular highway funding … all things are size-dependent.”
The report also counted bridge improvements; Maryland has 12 projects, putting the state at 25th in the nation for total bridge improvements, replacements and construction, with data from one state incomplete. That number makes Maryland above average in stimulus-funded bridge improvements, because figures from the highway administration show that Maryland is 34th in the nation for the total number of bridges, with 5,128.
Instead of focusing on a few major areas, Cahalan said that money was spread throughout the state to have maximum impact and to help create jobs in many areas. All stimulus funds must be obligated by March 2, and Cahalan said Maryland has already met that goal.
While the report’s emphasis is on road and bridge improvements, it also highlights stimulus funding for three MARC commuter rail lines in Maryland, totaling $24 million. And Maryland contractor Marnie Beier, president of Guardrails Etc., is featured in the report for hiring back 15 employees last May with stimulus funds.
Nationally, the report says that 1,125 bridges had been improved, replaced, or newly constructed, and 21,400 miles of pavement were improved, resurfaced or widened. The report also said more than 280,000 jobs were created directly to work on almost 10,000 transportation projects as a result of the stimulus bill signed last year.
Much work remains and Executive Director John Horsley said in the report that state DOTs have already identified almost 10,000 more projects this year that are “ready-to-go,” worth $79 billion.
“Congress needs to move quickly to pass another jobs bill,” Horsley said in the report. “This study proves transportation projects can deliver hundreds of thousands of jobs for America.”