US House Democrats Unveil $825B Stimulus Package; $46.75B Direct Spending on Vehicles and Transportation Infrastructure
16 January 2009
Democrats in the US House of Representatives unveiled their $825-billion recovery package, a combination of $550 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax cuts. Of the package, which covers a broad range of projects and investments, $46.75 billion is to be directly applied to the transportation sector, including on-road, rail, air and maritime segments. Of the direct transportation money, $30 billion (64%) is targeted at highway and bridge construction.
The bill also proposes $11.77 billion going to boosting scientific research across many fields. Of that, $1.9 billion is targeted directly at the US Department of Energy for basic research into the physical sciences including high-energy physics, nuclear physics, and fusion energy sciences and improvements to DOE laboratories and scientific facilities. $400 million is for the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy to support high-risk, high-payoff research into energy sources and energy efficiency.
Another $11 billion is to be applied for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds for the Smart Grid Investment Program to modernize the electricity grid. $8 billion for loans for renewable energy power generation and transmission projects is to be provided.
The economy is in a crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Credit is frozen, consumer purchasing power is in decline, in the last four months the country has lost 2 million jobs and we are expected to lose another 3 to 5 million in the next year. Conservative economist Mark Zandi was blunt: “the economy is shutting down.”
The economy is in such trouble that, even with passage of this bill, unemployment rates are expected to rise to between eight and nine percent this year. Without this bill, we are warned that unemployment could explode to near twelve percent. With passage of this bill, we will face a large deficit for years to come. Without it, those deficits will be devastating and we face the risk of economic chaos. Tough choices have been made in this legislation and fiscal discipline will demand more tough choices in years to come.—Report on The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
The US Senate is developing its own version of a recovery package. The congressional leadership is targeting delivering a bill to the President by the middle of February.
Among the transportation-related provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as proposed:
Advanced Battery Loans and Grants: $2 billion for the Advanced Battery Loan Guarantee and Grants Program, to support US manufacturers of advanced vehicle batteries and battery systems.
Electric Transportation: $200 million for a new grant program to encourage electric vehicle technologies.
GSA Federal Fleet: $600 million to replace older vehicles owned by the federal government with plug-in and alternative fuel automobiles that will save on fuel costs and reduce carbon emissions.
Alternative Buses and Trucks: $400 million to help state and local governments purchase efficient alternative fuel vehicles to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.
Diesel Emissions Reduction: $300 million for grants and loans to state and local governments for projects that reduce diesel emissions, benefiting public health and reducing global warming. This includes technologies to retrofit emission exhaust systems on school buses, replace engines and vehicles, and establish anti-idling programs. 70% of the funds go to competitive grants and 30% funds grants to states with approved programs. Last year EPA was able to fund only 27% of the applications received.
Highway Infrastructure: $30 billion for highway and bridge construction projects. It is estimated that states have over 5,100 projects totaling over $64 billion that could be awarded within 180 days. These projects create jobs in the short term while saving commuters time and money in the long term. In 2006, the Department of Transportation estimated $8.5 billion was needed to maintain current systems and $61.4 billion was needed to improve highways and bridges.
Transit ($9 billion total): $1 billion for Capital Investment Grants for new commuter rail or other light rail systems to increase public use of mass transit and to speed projects already in construction. The Federal Transit Administration has $2.4 billion in pre-approved projects.
$2 billion to modernize existing transit systems, including renovations to stations, security systems, computers, equipment, structures, signals, and communications. Funds will be distributed through the existing formula. The repair backlog is nearly $50 billion.
$6 billion to purchase buses and equipment needed to increase public transportation and improve intermodal and transit facilities. The Department of Transportation estimates a $3.2 billion maintenance backlog and $9.2 billion in needed improvements. The American Public Transportation Association identified 787 ready-to-go transit projects totaling $15.5 billion. Funds will be distributed through the existing formulas.
Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail Construction Grants: $1.1 billion to improve the speed and capacity of intercity passenger rail service. The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General estimates the North East Corridor alone has a backlog of over $10 billion.
Airport Improvement Grants: $3 billion for airport improvement projects that will improve safety and reduce congestion. An estimated $41 billion in eligible airport infrastructure projects are needed between 2007-2011.
Coast Guard Bridges: $150 million for ready-to-go investments to repair or remove bridges deemed hazardous to marine navigation, thereby removing obstructions and improving the safety of marine navigation.
Additionally, the bill proposes spending $200 million for enforcement and cleanup of petroleum leaks from underground storage tanks at approximately 1,600 additional sites. There are an estimated 116,000 sites with the potential to contaminate important water supplies.
Two thirds of the transportation funding is going toward encouraging the continued reliance on the automobile.
Not. Good. Enough.
Posted by: stomv | 16 January 2009 at 08:21 AM
As long as the funding is for EV's and domestic energy, i don't see anything wrong with that. It's pretty late to reverse 100 yrs of development around the auto.
On the other hand, a better bus is a good thing too.
Posted by: danm | 16 January 2009 at 09:27 AM
Thanks for posting the text. Page 73 has $2.4B for Carbon Capture and Sequestration projects, yet only $2B for advanced battery development and facilities. Meanwhile Asian manufacturers supported by their governments have announced battery facility investments of $3-5B. How come these governments and companies are not spending billions on carbon capture and sequestration? Why is it only the US who apparently believes carbon capture deserves more investment than batteries?
Posted by: Neil Maguire | 16 January 2009 at 09:29 AM
Neil: The US may not be the only nation that believes carbon capture........
But you are close. In most nations the parliamentary system allows a relatively few party leaders - i.e. the cabinet - to decide what will be done.
And what they decide should be done is done until the government falls in an election or by a vote of no confidence.
In the US there is no equivalent party discipline.
In the US a member of Congress can often block or neuter a program despite what the President and/or the party leaders desire.
This leads legislators to trade favors and thus to fragmentation of efforts. Everything gets some money, even the worst ideas and programs. And the better ideas and programs are weakened accordingly.
This is true at the state level also.
It is a serious problem. Perhaps our worst. But the system and the Constitution are considered sacred. Virtually no one discusses whether a big overhaul is needed.
Posted by: Ken | 16 January 2009 at 02:27 PM
Any spending on roads should be borne by the highway trust fund. If it is not adequate, it should be increased or spending should not occur on the federal level. We need more congestion, not less, to get people out of their cars. We don't need to improve the highway system; we need to dismantle much of it.
More money should be spend on bicycle paths, to include a path covering the entire nation.
Take the money out of highways and spend it on the AMTRAK backlog, including new tracks so that AMTRAK isn't bogged down by coal trains in the west.
Any tax deductions should be in the form of tax credits that encourage conservation, the use of renewable energy, and the electrication of the transportation system.
Posted by: tstreet | 17 January 2009 at 07:24 AM
while your points are valid the problem and fix do not rest only in the Constitution. IF a fully disclosed report on cost/benefit of carbon capture were to be introduced to Congress - it would become clear that the need to immediately mitigate man-made CO2 is unproven. IF Congress was shown the volumes of data that question the validity of AGW and the beneficial effect of CO2 biomass fertilization - it is doubtful any CCS money would be allocated at this time.
The U.S. is already leading the world in adopting non fossil energy independence. That the legislature is brow-beaten with 100% carbon capture demands diverts crucial funding from legitimate alternative energy R&D.
The legislature's deal making and earmarks do dilute efficacy. One solution would be to establish a body of expertise that would preselect technologies and action best suited for national and regional domains. This body would be charged with hearing ALL legitimate voices on a matter in a public setting. An equally unbiased press/education corp would be required to distribute encapsulated overviews to the public (like Proposition overviews in State elections.)
While this process was once the work of Congress and staff, the nation has outgrown its representative bodies and rapid advances in technology has overwhelmed House and Senate staff abilities. Some capable assistance needs to be given to the handful of legislators charged with steering government actions.
Posted by: sulleny | 17 January 2009 at 07:26 AM
sulleny: the objection I have to your last is that Congress already has all the resources it needs to operate effectively, to obtain expert information, to train, expand, or improve staff.
No, the problem is about what Congress does, not what they need.
IMO the political structure is the root of the problem. That structure rewards certain behaviors so we get those behaviors.
Congress operates as it does because the members think that best. And they are right, it does look like a good deal for them. It is hard for me to believe it is a good deal for the country.
Exactly how do we get that unbiased press/education corp? Does it already exist, perhaps just overlooked in some attic?
Do we build these press robots? Who will they work for? The boss would have to be unbiased and apolitical. Who? And what Congress will give an appointee such power?
CSPAN is said to be operated in a neutral fashion. I don't have cable TV so I offer no opinion.
A couple of US experiences worth pondering.
First, there was Robert Moses who reigned as the infrastructure Czar of the NYC area. His story is well worth study for anyone interested in what Obama and the Congress might have in mind for their trillion $ infrastructure programs.
In contrast, the second would be how we have built new urban transit systems in recent decades.
With few exceptions each system is a tale of failure beginning with decades of lobbying and planning producing tens of thousands of pages of reports, and ending with lies about the true costs and total denial of fact.
In between comes massive cost overruns, passengers who never appear despite planning projections, multiple sources of funding with multiple bosses to watch it, corruption, lawsuits and court interventions, and innovative equipment that often fails.
Anyway, our course is chosen. The feds are going to spend every dollar they can borrow or print. The states can't print, they will spend only every cent they can borrow. Next stop Recovery or Zimbabwe????
Posted by: Ken | 17 January 2009 at 10:47 AM
FAR too much dedicated to highways, which simply perpetuates our dependency on autos and strengthens the highway lobby. I would support shifting at least 50% of that money to bicycle and pedestrian trails/lanes as one poster above mentioned.
Posted by: Will S | 19 January 2009 at 04:20 AM
"Why is it only the US who apparently believes carbon capture deserves more investment than batteries?"
Because 48% of the electricity that would recharge those batteries would come from coal power plants. Add in 22% for NG power plants, which also emit CO2[although less of it] and other non-energy CO2 sources like steel and cement production and you have a lot of places CCS could be retro-fitted into.
Posted by: ai_vin | 19 January 2009 at 09:09 AM
Except that we have zero proof that CCS will have ANY effect on atmosphere, climate or global temperature.
@Ken: If I recall Moses built a nice rail system out to a Long Island beach that now sports his name. It was washed away by a storm so they rebuilt it at great cost. These projects do result in superfluous "behaviors" one might suppose - but then they also funnel jobs and money into the local economies which is a desired "behavior."
As for impartial press corp. All that's needed is a school of journalism that teaches ethics - along with journalism. The bots at work today have never heard of ethics nor a behavior called independent thinking.
Posted by: sulleny | 20 January 2009 at 12:07 AM
Sulleny: I actually cited Moses as a man who got things built. He managed to deal effectively with the special interests that so paralyze public works today.
OTOH he didn't do it by being Mr. Sensitive. Another era and different ideas.
I see no merit in funneling jobs and money into a local economy if the jobs are constructing poor systems based upon poor planning while huge amounts of the money is diverted into the pockets of the corrupt.
My point is not that transit systems are bad but that we do a bad job of building them.
If journalism schools aren't what we desire then maybe the problem is journalism schools. Were people unaware of ethics, or independent thought before such schools existed? Was writing invented at journalism school?
Printing is a technology. Media is a business. Writing is a skill. Journalism is nonsense. There is no there there.
Posted by: Ken | 21 January 2009 at 12:03 PM
30 billion dollars going to road and bridge construction ?
Does this mean that greedy contractors will be hiring even more illegal aliens who are swarming over the border and displace "even more" American workers who are hurting to find a job in our troubled economy?
I guess the stimulas package will be helping Mexico more than the United States.
Posted by: Two White Crows | 31 January 2009 at 10:16 PM