Highways and Bridges

E-newsletter Issue #47 | May 27, 2010


Facing budget cuts and dwindling funds to build roads and bridges, the New York State Department of Transportation was forced to close a bridge in the North Country, one that connects New York and Vermont.  The old bridge in the Adirondacks was no longer safe for travel.

More than a year in the works, this report looks back on the implementation of the highway spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It examines how states were able to successfully meet deadlines, fund road projects that made an impact on job creation and the nation’s infrastructure, and put in place unprecedented transparency and accountability measures. Included are interviews with state stimulus czars, state transportation officials and others who were on the front lines of the implementation process. The report also includes a series of charts that show where every state stood at various points in the process. The report received funding from CSG’s 21st Century Foundation. It can be read online at http://www.csg.org/policy/documents/Shovel_Ready_Projects.pdf

This report examines the success of states in implementing highway spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It focuses on four areas that were emphasized during the implementation process: the speed with which states were able to dole out stimulus dollars and get projects up and running, the focus of the projects themselves, accountability and transparency initiatives, and the impact of the stimulus spending on job creation and other indicators. The report is drawn from federal and state government reports and news accounts, as well as interviews with state stimulus officials.


It’s been one year since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Charging motorists on a per mile basis has gained some traction in recent years as a potential revenue mechanism to replace state and federal fuel taxes. Pilot projects to test VMT systems in many states are helping to define how they would work.

Nationwide marketing campaigns and state efforts to seek public input and build trust in transportation decision making are helping to galvanize support for the infrastructure investment many say America needs.

Despite the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, many states are falling short in providing needed investment in the nation's highways and bridges. But some states in 2009 had success in finding revenue sources to fund them.

This report includes bar charts for six indicators of road and bridge conditions and safety, including percent of roads in fair or good condition; percent of bridges structurally deficient; percent of bridges functionally obsolete; traffic fatalities per 100 million annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT); percent of traffic fatalities involving high blood alcohol concentration; and seat belt usage rates. Data were sought for a number of other outcome indicators, including injury rates, congestion and customer satisfaction. However, too few states were able to provide information on these  indicators.

Fiscal conditions in the states began to decline in fiscal 2008. State spending and revenues grew at a lower rate than the prior year and balances were well-below their near record levels of fiscal 2007. While fiscal 2008 saw somewhat moderate declines, the fiscal situation in the states has deteriorated much more sharply in fiscal 2009. State spending is projected to be negative for the first time since 1983, balance levels are being reduced as states use reserves to address shortfalls, and recent data shows state revenues declining by 4 percent. As a result, states are likely to face a difficult budgetary environment in fiscal 2010 and beyond.

The transportation needs of this country are growing. There is increased congestion, an increased demand for public transportation and increasing fuel costs. This increased demand on the transportation system has led to an increased strain on states’ budgets as they also try to fund escalating costs for healthcare and education.

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