Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Five thousand jobs and $387 million

September 12, 2011 - 10:03 AM
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(Photo: flickr/Helga's Lobster Stew)

Last Friday I wrote about the increasingly political and important transportation developments happening in the halls of U.S. government. President Barack Obama is emphasizing transportation in his half-a-trillion-dollar American Jobs Act put before Congress — and as I wrote Friday, certain Republicans such as Rep. John Boehner (Ohio), Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), and Sen. Tom Coburn (Oklahoma) want to cut federal bike and pedestrian funding from the highway bill.

But what would the proposed jobs legislation mean for D.C. transit? The president is offering $50 billion for national transportation improvements overall, and for the District — via Lydia DePillis — the White House has said the following:

Of the investments for highway and transit modernization projects, the President’s plan will make immediate investments of at least $387,300,000 in District of Columbia that could support a minimum of approximately 5,000 local jobs.

Hear that? $387 million and 5,000 local jobs slated for D.C. transportation, assuming that legislation goes forward. But how will that sum be broken down?

I wonder, but the American Jobs Act doesn't specify. $387 million is a healthy bit of money, and I'm curious about specifically what area of transit this will benefit. A fancy new construction project for Metro? General highway improvements? Bridges? Maybe a little for streetscaping. $387 million amounts to a little under a sixth of WMATA's 2011 fiscal year budget ($2.2 billion), to give a sense of scale, and just under half of the 2011 cost to run Metrorail ($822 million). For even more scale, consider that the start-up cost and projected first-year operating costs for Capital Bikeshare (Chris Holben said $7.3 million in late 2010) amount to under 2% of the D.C. transit funds in American Jobs Act. You could fund the start of 50 bikeshare projects with D.C.'s money. I suspect we'll see a lot of small-scale transit projects benefit and long-needed improvements finally enacted.

What dimension of D.C. transportation needs the funds most out of this potential $387 million slated for it?

If the American Jobs Act passes, that is. I'm not holding my breath on this one. Maybe though. A billion here, a billion there, right?

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