Maryland ranked high on spending stimulus money
If you go by the standards promoted by leading smart growth advocates, Maryland ranks high on the list of states that spent the money it has received in federal economic stimulus funds wisely.
A report prepared by Smart Growth America (provided to The Sun but since temporarily taken down from its web site) ranks Maryland 9th in its ranking of states for spending the flexible funds provided under the American Recovery Investment Act for purposes other than adding new road capacity.
Eight other states earned a perfect ranking by devoting no money at all from the program an adding road capacity. Maryland spent only 1 percent for that purpose. The Smart Growth advocacy group contends that stimulus funds were better spent on transit projects, bike and walking paths and maintaining existing highway infrastructure.
According to the report Maryland allocated 91 percent of its stimulus funds, or $400 million, to improving existing roads -- one of the highest percentages in the country. It spent only 4 percent of its flexible funds on transit but still ranked 16th among the states, said report author Roger Millar of Smart Growth America.
The report did not take into account the dedicated highway and transit money provided to the states under the stimulus bill because the states had less discretion in how they spent that money.
Smart Growth America generally favors concentrating spending on transit, pedestrian and bicycle projects, as well as system preservation of existing road infrastructure, to contain sprawl and promote a cleaner environment.
Its report contends that such "smart growth" projects also have greater economic benefits than building or widening roads. It said transit projects generate 31 percent more jobs per dollar spent than road construction, while preservation projects yield 16 percent more jobs.
Transit and road repair projects tends to be more labor-intensive, while road construction projects tend to be weighted more heavily toward materials such as steel and asphalt.
The report also contends that spending on existing infrastructure has a greater payoff because it holds off the need for expensive reconstruction and helps keep existing communities from falling into disrepair.
Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland, said the group is pleased with Maryland's ranking She said that with further stimulus spending unlikely, it is especially important that the state maintain its priorities with what are likely to be scarce state and federal funds.
Schmidt-Perkins said that for many years, projects were chosen for political reasons or because they had been on a local government's list for a long time.
"We can't afford that anymore," she said.