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Will Transit, Bikes, and Peds Get a Stimulus We Can Believe In?

2547408350_8ecd03abd1.jpgThe Smith/9th St. subway station is one of many that could benefit from stimulus spending. Photo: Victoria Belanger/Flickr

Sam Schwartz has an op-ed in today's Daily News urging New York's leaders to get ready for the massive stimulus package taking shape in Washington:

Billions of dollars are being dangled in front of big cities in the form of President-elect Barack Obama's proposed public works stimulus. A queue has already started forming -- as Philadelphia, Phoenix, Atlanta, Connecticut and North Carolina have dusted off plans with ready-to-go projects.

Gov. Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg must act now to ensure that New York doesn't miss the boat -- or the train, or the bus.

The competition for funds is not just between regions, but between modes as well. The Times reported yesterday that APTA has identified a bundle of transit projects as candidates for stimulus spending:

The American Public Transportation Association, which representslocal mass transit authorities, said there were $8 billion in "ready-to-go" projects that could preserve or create thousands of jobsand provide more energy-efficient transportation.

Beverly A.Scott, the chief executive of Atlanta’s transit agency and head of thenational association, told Congress in October that the projectsincluded diesel-electric hybrid buses for Chicago; a new busmaintenance shop for Eugene, Ore.; and a set of crossover tracks toallow San Francisco’s rapid transit trains to turn around more quicklyand carry more riders.

Is $8 billion aiming high enough when a consensus has emerged for stimulus spending of at least $300 billion for each of the next two years?

In October, Reconnecting America released a report identifying $248 billion in transit projects on the drawing board. Not all of those would qualify for stimulus funds, which are supposed to be directed toward projects that can get underway and create jobs within 90 days. (We're told there might be a second stage of stimulus spending that would be more conducive to bigger capital projects.) But some worry that transit providers are so accustomed to getting outspent by highway builders that they won't make the most of this opportunity. "Aim low and you'll hit Mt. Everest instead of the moon," says Reconnecting America's Jeff Wood.

There's also the question of bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and whether those projects will get more than crumbs. Portland, as usual, looks like a leader in this regard. Bike Portland reported last month that PDOT included a $24 million, 110-mile bike boulevard project as part of a larger federal funding request.

When we asked local transportation agencies what projects they would seek stimulus funds for, the MTA had a list of "ready to go" projects prepared (posted below). NYCDOT has not returned inquiries, and the state DOT told us its list is still a work in progress.

Potential MTA Stimulus Proposals

The MTA has a variety of capital and operating initiatives that have been designed or planned but have not been implemented due to budgetary issues.

They fall into the following categories and could be underway and “on the street” within 60-90 days and create immediate employment opportunities.

There are between $800 million and $1 billion worth of projects that fall into these areas:

  1. Full and Partial Station Rehabilitations
  2. Station Painting at Deteriorated Stations
  3. Bridge Painting
  4. Accelerating Track Replacement
  5. Accelerating Flood Prevention Measures
  6. Advancing Bus Depot Rehabilitations and Expansions
  7. Station, Track and Car Cleaning
  8. Improvements to Employee Facilities
  9. Improving Elevator and Escalator Repairs
  10. Providing Pedestrian Overpasses at some LIRR/MNR stations
  11. Commuter Railroad Parking Enhancements
  12. Commuter Rail Right of Way Cleanup and Tree Trimming

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