Food for thought.

New report shows the job-creating potential of transportation investments.

by Transportation for America:

"Relative to the economy as a whole, jobs created through transportation investments are disproportionately likely to not require a college degree. But they’re disproportionately un-likely to fall into the “low-wage” bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. When dollars are shifted out of current consumption and into transportation investments, this has the effect of pulling people in low-wage jobs into better jobs." Yglesias

According to data sent by the states to Congress, the states that created the most jobs invested in public transportation and projects that maintained and repaired existing roads and bridges. The states that ranked poorly predominantly spent their funds building new roads and bridges.

Historically, investments in public transportation have generated 31 percent more jobs per dollar than new construction of roads and bridges. However, SGA’s findings show that the payoff was even larger in Recovery Act spending, with public transportation projects producing 70 percent more jobs per dollar than road projects.

Newsweek’s David A. Graham covered the report’s release yesterday and noted:

Today the unemployment rate is hovering above 9 percent — better than it would have been without the stimulus, most experts agree, but still painfully high. Why didn’t we get more for our money?

While liberals and conservatives alike blame the stimulus itself — It wasn’t big enough! It was never going to work! — the problem may have more to do with how the money was spent. It’s not enough just to inject money into infrastructure, because not all transportation funding is created equal — or at least, it doesn’t create jobs at an equal rate. As any infrastructure policy wonk can tell you, money spent on fixing up existing systems or building mass transit delivers more jobs, and faster, than building new highways.

SGA also released findings from a November poll (pdf) that found that 91 percent of voters feel maintaining and repairing our roads and bridges should be the top or a high priority for state spending on transportation programs, and 68 percent believe that improving and expanding public transportation options should be the top or a high priority.

According to the report’s state-by-state rankings, seven states and the District of Columbia spent 100 percent of their Recovery Act flexible transportation funds to preserve existing roads and bridges, and ranked among the top states. The states included: Vermont, Maine, New Jersey, South Dakota, Connecticut, Rhode Island and North Dakota. Among other findings:

  • Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Kansas and Arkansas spent the majority of funds building new roads and bridges and comprised the bottom five in terms of average jobs created per dollar spent.
  • Florida and Kansas can point to roads that are in good shape relative to other states and thus less need for repair and maintenance.

Transportation for America

Yet, transportation is the first agency to get hit with budget cuts when in reality, it provided more jobs for those in union and without a college degree. How does this all make sense? It doesn’t.

Just some food for thought.