Less than two years after the federal government rolled out a stimulus plan to spend $48 billion to rescue America's aging transportation system and keep construction crews working, the results are visible all over California.
The state has received $2.6 billion in stimulus funds for road and transit needs and completed or awarded contracts for 90 percent of 931 projects. That's the second fastest performance nationwide, behind Texas, according to the Department of Transportation.
"Our role was to spend stimulus money fast and we did it," said Dan Collen, deputy director of the County of Santa Clara Roads & Airports Department, which used $2.8 million in federal aid to finish the repaving of Montague Expressway.
A report released last month by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Obama administration had met its goal of getting 70 percent of the $787 billion stimulus package spent within 18 months. Transportation is just a small chunk of that package, but perhaps the most visible.
Among the transportation projects either completed or under way in the Bay Area:
So many projects have been finished that roadside signs saying they were paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have mostly been taken down.
The Congressional Budget Office said stimulus spending added as many as 3.3 million jobs to the economy during the second quarter of this year, and may have prevented the nation from falling back into recession.
California estimates that each billion dollars spent yields about 18,000 jobs.
Kelly Kolander, president and CEO of O.C. Jones & Sons, the contractor for the I-280 metering projects, said at his firm the money "helped create and preserve over 40 jobs."
Officials with the Hayward firm Gillig, which built the VTA hybrids, say the stimulus contract helped the company avoid laying off any of its 700 workers.
"This filters into the economy," said Christen Monsen of the Alameda County Transportation Commission, "because construction workers spend their money. They don't hoard it for a rainy day."
But despite the infusion of cash, the national unemployment rate remains close to 10 percent and the construction industry remains severely hit by the recession.
"The stimulus helped here and there, but overall the road-building industry is reeling," said Russell Snyder, executive director of the California Asphalt Pavement Association, "and the stimulus was not enough to stave off business closings, layoffs and other doomsday measures."
Repaving was limited to major streets, even though some residential roads may be in worse condition. And transportation officials wish more cash could have been devoted to big capital projects.
"Fastest projects aren't necessarily the top-priority projects," said Debbie Hale, executive director of the Transportation Agency for Monterey County, who would have preferred to spend some of the money on the $91 million Highway 101-San Juan Road project, which is $18 million short. "We funded a bunch of local projects instead, but I'd rather use federal funds on one big job rather than federalize a bunch of little jobs.
"Efficiency vs. speed. We got speed on this one."
Two major Bay Area projects have received funds -- nearly $200 million for the fourth bore in the Caldecott Tunnel and $96 million to replace the Doyle Drive approach to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Some transportation officials were hoping for a second stimulus boost, but that appears doubtful. Last week, Republicans proposed slashing $2 billion in stimulus funds for California's high-speed rail line.
"The real issue is that California's roads are in sorry shape and billions are needed, and these types of programs are the sort of things necessary," said Ralph Qualls, former public works director in Cupertino. "However, transportation must be a priority, and while the president is very supportive of that, I am not so optimistic about the new Congress."
Contact Gary Richards at 408-920-5335.
California has received nearly $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funding for 931 highway, street and transit projects. Ninety percent has been spent or is out to bid. An additional $2.25 billion has been set aside for high-speed rail. Here are some Bay Area projects that stimulus aid is helping to fund. Go to http://recovery.ca.gov for more information.
I-880 to Lawrence Expressway: $15 million