I’ve written a couple of different articles about how the USDOT has wasted millions of stimulus dollars on items and projects that should have been put back on the shelf – as the projects were not something needed at this time.
This is something that has really gotten under my skin lately – concerning wasteful spending. Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn, M.D. just released a report on how the Obama administration has wasted the stimulus money. By the way Obama touts that nearly 3 million jobs have been created or saved by this money BUT recovery.gov says differently – 755,454 jobs created or saved as of June 2010.
When I was out on the road last year, it seemed that parking was getting harder to find – due to rest areas being closed and more trucks being on the road.
USDOT allocated $6 million dollars for “new or upgraded” truck parking just last month – problem is it was for FIVE different states – by the way this came out of a program called SAFETEA-LU – which is supposed to be used for such things.
But the same program gave $5 million dollars to a New Jersey city for ONE bicycle path. Why couldn’t stimulus money have been used to provide more and safe parking for trucks?
Here is one of many examples the DOT wasted stimulus money on.
North Shore Connector to Professional Sports Stadiums, Casino (Pittsburgh, PA) – $62 million
In February 2009, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell called Pittsburgh’s North Shore Connector “a tragic mistake, leaving taxpayers wondering why the project recently received a $62.5 million windfall from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project would allow the Port Authority of Allegheny County to extend the city’s light rail under the Allegheny River to the new Rivers Casino, as well as to its two professional sports arenas, PNC Park (home of the Pirates) and Heinz Field (home of theSteelers). Unfortunately, the North Shore Connector has been plagued with problems since its inception, making it seem in this case that federal officials are throwing good money after bad.
Maybe Governor Ed Rendell should have used the $62.5 million on roads, instead of a train to go to casino’s and ball parks.
Governor Ed Rendell Urges Senate Transportation Committee to Work to Meet Road, Bridge and Transit Funding Challenges this Year
With a little hard work this summer, legislative leaders can solve Pennsylvania’s transportation funding problem without fiscal pain, Governor Edward G. Rendell told members of the Senate Transportation Committee in Harrisburg. “One in five bridges in the state is considered structurally deficient, Governor Rendell said, noting that there are structurally deficient bridges on most of the major and secondary roads in the state. “And, if we lined up all the miles of Pennsylvania roadways in need to repair, they would stretch across the entire country three times.” Read here
Next on the list of wasted stimulus money by the DOT.
Abandoned Train Station to be Converted Into Museum (Glassboro, NJ) – $1.2 million
Taxpayers may not be happy to learn that they are paying for one broken down train station twice. The Glassboro train station was built in 1860 and closed in 1971. Unused for nearly 40 years, it now sits boarded up and riddled with graffiti. In 2002, the Borough of Glassboro, New Jersey received nearly a quarter of a million dollars from the U.S. Department of Transportation to purchase the train station from Conrail. At that time, officials hoped to incorporate the station into the regional NJ Transit system. But those plans fell through, and since then local officials have been looking for a way to fund renovations to put the building to some use.
After eight years of failure and further deterioration of the building, the effort has been saved only by the “availability of federal stimulus dollars.” Local officials lobbied hard for additional stimulus money. They are hoping to spend the more than $1 million for the project “interpreting local history in its proper setting and make it a museum, public meeting space and welcome center.”
Maybe New Jersey should lobby for the stimulus money for Rest Areas.
Route 287 in New Jersey a rest area is a welcome stop, but only for truckers
There is only one rest stop along the 70-mile-long section of Interstate 287 in New Jersey, and if you are the driver of a car, you are out of luck. If you are a driver of truck, the Harding rest area, on the northbound side of the highway just short of Morristown, provides less-than-luxurious amenities: four portable toilets and overflowing trash bins. Beyond a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire sits a stone and brick building and a park that used to be for visitors. Read Here
Next up on the list of wasted stimulus money by the DOT.
Town Replaces New Sidewalks With Newer Sidewalks That Lead to Ditch (Boynton, OK) – $89,298
People around Boynton, Oklahoma were left scratching their heads after the town was awarded nearly $90,000 to replace a quarter-mile stretch of sidewalk that was replaced only five years ago. One long time resident of Boynton, Ray Allen, said the project “had been the talk of the town recently, and none of it positive,” because it is “100 percent a waste of money.” Another resident, Mike Lance, noted that “the best indication of the absurdity of the project is what the contractor did with a section of sidewalk at the north end of town – one that fronts no homes or businesses, and leads directly into a ditch.” Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation defended the project as “necessary to bring the sidewalk into conformity with federal guidelines.”
Next up on the list of wasted stimulus money by the DOT.
Project Costs Jobs, Drastically Reduces Shopping Center Business (Normandy Park, WA) -$3.8 million
Normandy Park Town Center has struggled to attract and retain businesses, but a recent streetscaping project is making the prospects even worse. The U.S. Department of Transportation provided the city of Normandy Park, Washington with $3.8 million to spruce up eight blocks of 1st Avenue with the addition of “bike lanes, street lights, landscaping and a sidewalk.” The impact on local businesses has not been entirely welcome.
Archery Bistro, located in the shopping center and along the road, saw its lunch profits fall from $1,000 a day to $200 a day after construction began, forcing the elimination of two jobs. Restaurant owner, Todd McKittrick, eventually closed the bistro on Sundays and Mondays, and stopped serving lunch, after customers fell from 150 an afternoon to 30. “I thought this was supposed to be federal stimulus, not “put me out of business,” noted McKittrick. Since McKittrick had to let go of two employees he has decided to forgo his own paycheck, a fact that he blames on the project.
Next up on the list of wasted stimulus money by the DOT.
Two Riders an Hour Get Brand New Buses (Winter Haven, FL) – $2.4 million
Winter Haven Area Transit (WHAT) buses carry two to three riders per hour, according to the City Commission’s liaison to the Transit authority. While that may be a bit of an under-count according to the Transit Authority, City Commissioner Jamie Beckett is “not convinced we need 40-foot buses for two or three riders an hour.” All the same, the town is getting five new buses for its fleet, thanks to more than $2.38 million stimulus dollars. The entire WHAT budget for FY 2009 was only $60,000, and for FY2010 it was only $110,000, yet the average cost of the new buses will be $380,000.237 At least there will be plenty of leg room, if the buses are as empty as they seem.
This is just a few of the long list totaling 100 projects of wasted stimulus money. You can view the rest of the list provided by Senators McCain and Coburn entitled “Summertime Blues.”
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Thank you for documenting how the USDOT has wasted millions of dollars in “stimulus” money. I am concerned not just with this type of government spending, but with all types. If you will be so kind, I would like to present a different perspective…
First, all of our federal elected officials took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. Many of them vowed during their campaigns that they would work to reduce federal taxes and spending once in office. However, many of them — as soon as they were sworn into office — got sucked into the trap of thinking that they had to “bring home the bacon” (vote on legislation that brought money into their districts). They forsook looking at the constitutionality of spending, but merely competed with other elected officials for “their fair share.” The problem with the “stimulus” — as was the “bailout” before it — is that it was unconstitutional.
Second, we could learn from some of our countrymen from years gone by. Davy Crockett was once quoted as saying, “We have the right as individuals to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.” Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
Third, when did we who are in the trucking industry start to think that it is government’s responsibility to start providing parking spaces for us? With every “give,” there is a “take.” I can easily imagine an even greater crackdown on drivers who frequent government-provided rest areas and parking lots. Speculating on the future, I foresee government-paid workers patrolling these areas, writing tickets for drivers whose trucks have no idling alternatives for idling in “their” parking spaces. Then that may lead to other crackdowns with increasing frequency and severity. The irony is that when they use “our” tax money to make something for “us,” the feds think it is “theirs” and they will act accordingly. Consider all of the abuses that are taking place (or have been proposed), each designed to strip us of our liberties, in the name of “safety.” How many more of our liberties — and how much more of our hard-earned paychecks — must we forfeit in order to get parking spaces?
Fourth, the best solution (in my opinion) is the free-market solution. If it is the government that is making it hard for private entrepreneurs to create privately owned and operated truck stops, then we should petition our lawmakers to reduce whatever hindrances there are so that more parking spaces can be created by business men and women. I’m sure that you would agree with me that there is a severe lack of parking in the northeastern United States. However, in riding through the area, there are many tracts of land just off the interstates and U.S. highways that could easily accommodate a truck stop. Their locations are not suitable for the type of rest areas that most of us are used to (directly off and back on an interstate), but they might very well be suitable for a truck stop with 25-50 spaces each. I wonder: How much more costly will it be to taxpayers in the long run for government to create and maintain truck parking spaces than if more truck stops were privately owned and operated?
Please seriously consider supporting the free-market solution for creating truck parking spaces.
Thanks again for bringing this matter to light.
Thanks Vickie for the comment. I was trying to be sarcastic when I suggested using the stimulus money for parking. I agree we shouldn’t be using any stimulus money especially if it is wasted like it has been.
The problem with private entrepreneurs owning truck stops is the big chain truck stops put them out of business a private truck stop can’t compete. I have gave thought about just a parking lot with restrooms – would be a good thing – but I don’t think it would be profitable as most truckers will not pay for parking.
But I do agree with you it needs to be done under free-market.