One of the most often-repeated refrains in campaign commercials this fall (good riddance, by the way) must have been "Obama's failed stimulus." While the recovery hasn't been quick enough for anyone's liking, a strong majority of economists still believe that the stimulus helped avoid even higher unemployment, and has created as many as 3 million jobs.
In two batches in February and October 2010, USDOT gave out a total of $2.1 billion for innovative transportation projects that address economic, environmental and travel issues at once. The TIGER program, as its known (Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery), is a competitive and merit-based process to pick projects and should be a model for next transportation authorization.
“Almost all of these projects have two things in common,” said T4 America director James Corless. ”They will all create desperately-needed jobs while building critical transportation infrastructure, and they have a hard time getting funded under the outdated structure of the current federal transportation program. These projects in communities across the country will create good paying jobs, spur local economic development, and keep our metro and rural areas connected. The administration is responding to the demand for funding that can help make communities of all sizes more livable, more competitive and more connected.”
Transportation for America has put together a great map (below) of all the TIGER spending thus far. Go ahead and look around your hometown to see how the stimulus dollars have been spent. (Though, to be absolutely clear, only $1.5 billion of the TIGER program came from the stimulus, with the remaining $600 million from the DOT budget).
At the time the stimulus was being appropriated, I was hooting and hollering about how more should go into mass transit and a sort of "new green deal." (And I most certainly wasn't alone in making that case.) And I complained immediately afterward about how mass transit got the shaft in Congress's eventual bill.
While the TIGER grant program isn't dedicated mass transit spending, you'll see by clicking around on the map how most of the projects are creating more livable cities and towns and promoting greener, more sustainable development and transportation.
Some examples: a centralized mass transit hub in Normal, Illinois; a streetcar line in Dallas, Texas; a waterfront bike path in Burlington, Vermont; a complete streets project in Fort Valley, Georgia.
According to Transportation for America, the DOT received "more than 2,400 applications totaling nearly $79 billion for just a $2.1 billion pot between the two rounds of funding." Clearly there is a lot of demand for these funds. Had, say, $77 billion wound up going to more of these community-improving TIGER programs and not on, say, highways or bank bailouts or tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent, a lot more Americans would be working today, and a lot more communities would be seeing the immediate benefit of that work—and their tax dollars.