Is Stimulus Money Being Spent Too Fast?

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told that how quickly a project could be completed was taken into account when the FAA was deciding which grants to award and that there likely were projects with high NPRs that were not awarded stimulus grants because they could not be completed within the amount of time specified by the stimulus rules.

"We're not judging whether these are good or bad but, in many cases, this raises questions about what the projects may be doing, especially if it's below the threshold," said Marcus C. Peacock, the project director for Subsidyscope.

Why It's Not: In addition to NPR scores and timing issues, Brown said the FAA also sought geographic diversity in awarding its grants, and also relied on other criteria.

The FAA has a history of awarding funding to projects below its NPR thresholds. Normally, the FAA considers projects with scores of 41 or above to be "consistent with FAA goals and objectives" but between 2005 and 2009, 13.5 percent of projects receiving federal funding had NPR scores below 41, according to the administration's Web site. (Among stimulus-funded projects, 22 had NPRs below 41, according to Subsidyscope data.)

In a statement on its site, the FAA said that "mathematical models will never be a replacement for human judgment."

Road Repairs

What It Is: The stimulus package includes more than $27 billion for investments in the country's highways and bridges, including road repairs.

Why It's Happening Too Fast: An analysis by USA Today last month found that 74 counties with the nation's worst roads -- including those in New York, Michigan and Texas -- received a relatively small amount of funding for road repairs: $1.9 billion.

"It's just not fair," one Michigan highway engineer told the newspaper.

"Some higher priority projects that would have taken longer to implement had to be overlooked in this particular situation because of the timing required by the (stimulus) bill," John Barton, assistant executive director for engineering operations at Texas Department of Transportation, told

Why It's Not: A Federal Highway Administration official said that in identifying bad roads, USA Today relied only on one metric -- the International Roughness Index, which essentially measures how bumpy a road is. The analysis did not take into account, the official said, whether a road is a structurally unsound.

"Urban areas may have (roads in) poor riding condition but they may not need to be fixed sooner than a road that is structurally unsound," the official said.

The 74 counties in question, the official added, are still getting more in funding than more than 1,000 other counties. Projects not included under the stimulus, she said, could still be eligible for other federal funding.

Even Barton isn't knocking the system.

"The Recovery Act is additional funding for transportation," he said. "It's not a replacement or substitute within traditional funding streams."

Jobs Come First?

Whether or not the projects funded by the stimulus are, in fact, of high priority may be of secondary importance, some say.

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