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Va. ranked 39th in stimulus spending

WASHINGTON (AP) — The District and Maryland have been ranked higher than Virginia on a scale that studied how states decided to spend federal stimulus dollars intended for transportation. Virginia ranked 39th among the 50 states and D.C.
According to Smart Growth America, Virginia got high marks for investing in rail. But, the coalition said, the state has not dealt with the maintenance backlog for transportation projects.
Smart Growth America is a coalition that advocates for policies to avoid urban sprawl and encourage compact communities that are transit-oriented, walkable and bike-friendly.
The group ranked Maryland and D.C. higher for deciding to spend less money on new roads and more on maintaining existing roads and bridges and improving pedestrian, bike paths and transit options.
The coalition cited research showing that highway maintenance projects create more jobs and can be completed more quickly than new construction.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said the state has a $3.7 billion backlog in repairs for aging bridges and $1 billion in interstate pavement repair requirements.
But Virginia got high marks for the transparency of its spending process and for using stimulus money for freight and passenger rail projects. It was ranked 12th in rail spending.
"The process has given us some snapshot of maintenance backlogs and indicated that we need to put a higher priority on structurally deficient bridges and other maintenance needs," said Stewart Schwartz. He’s executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which works in Virginia, Maryland and Washington.
The group found that Washington, whose road network is built out, invested no money in new construction. Instead, the city devoted 58 percent of its flexible stimulus dollars to maintenance and 41 percent on projects that improve pedestrian and bicycle options.
Maryland reported spending 94 percent of its funds on improving existing roads.
States are still determining how to spend their stimulus money. The group timed its report to appear 120 days after the stimulus package’s enactment, when states were required to have committed 50 percent of their funding.
Figures more recent than those used by Smart Growth America show that Virginia has spent more money on pedestrian, bike and rail projects than reflected in the report. State Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer suggested that an analysis of spending priorities would be more appropriate next spring or summer, when all of the state’s $694.5 million in surface transportation money has been committed.
"I think you need to be careful in infrastructure financing with these snapshots," Homer said.
In Maryland, Erin Henson, who is a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said officials decided to spread money around to many small maintenance projects rather than devote the fund to fewer large projects.
"Maryland is pleased to be recognized for our proactive approach to make the most of economic recovery dollars," she said.
District Department of Transportation Director Gabe Klein said Washington has used its stimulus funds to invest in alternatives to driving while it improves existing roads and bridges.
"The District recognizes the need for a balanced transportation system, and our stimulus spending reflects that," he said.

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Va. ranked 39th in stimulus spending

WASHINGTON (AP) — The District and Maryland have been ranked higher than Virginia on a scale that studied how states decided to spend federal stimulus dollars intended for transportation. Virginia ranked 39th among the 50 states and D.C.
According to Smart Growth America, Virginia got high marks for investing in rail. But, the coalition said, the state has not dealt with the maintenance backlog for transportation projects.
Smart Growth America is a coalition that advocates for policies to avoid urban sprawl and encourage compact communities that are transit-oriented, walkable and bike-friendly.
The group ranked Maryland and D.C. higher for deciding to spend less money on new roads and more on maintaining existing roads and bridges and improving pedestrian, bike paths and transit options.
The coalition cited research showing that highway maintenance projects create more jobs and can be completed more quickly than new construction.
The Virginia Department of Transportation said the state has a $3.7 billion backlog in repairs for aging bridges and $1 billion in interstate pavement repair requirements.
But Virginia got high marks for the transparency of its spending process and for using stimulus money for freight and passenger rail projects. It was ranked 12th in rail spending.
"The process has given us some snapshot of maintenance backlogs and indicated that we need to put a higher priority on structurally deficient bridges and other maintenance needs," said Stewart Schwartz. He’s executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which works in Virginia, Maryland and Washington.
The group found that Washington, whose road network is built out, invested no money in new construction. Instead, the city devoted 58 percent of its flexible stimulus dollars to maintenance and 41 percent on projects that improve pedestrian and bicycle options.
Maryland reported spending 94 percent of its funds on improving existing roads.
States are still determining how to spend their stimulus money. The group timed its report to appear 120 days after the stimulus package’s enactment, when states were required to have committed 50 percent of their funding.
Figures more recent than those used by Smart Growth America show that Virginia has spent more money on pedestrian, bike and rail projects than reflected in the report. State Transportation Secretary Pierce R. Homer suggested that an analysis of spending priorities would be more appropriate next spring or summer, when all of the state’s $694.5 million in surface transportation money has been committed.
"I think you need to be careful in infrastructure financing with these snapshots," Homer said.
In Maryland, Erin Henson, who is a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said officials decided to spread money around to many small maintenance projects rather than devote the fund to fewer large projects.
"Maryland is pleased to be recognized for our proactive approach to make the most of economic recovery dollars," she said.
District Department of Transportation Director Gabe Klein said Washington has used its stimulus funds to invest in alternatives to driving while it improves existing roads and bridges.
"The District recognizes the need for a balanced transportation system, and our stimulus spending reflects that," he said.

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