Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Some lawmakers have gotten a bit miffed that they were not involved in the decision-making process."

I'm So Paid


By Holly LaFon
Copyright 2009

Faster than you can say “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” the Texas Department of Transportation is allocating its $2.2 billion of stimulus funds to pave the streets with gold finance construction projects and maintenance across the state.

On Monday, TxDOT provided the House Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding with a list of transportation projects totaling $2.2 billion dollars, which department staff will have to whittle down to $1.2 billion in projects, in order to allow for $508 million in maintenance. Another $600 million has already been sent directly to regional planning agencies, such as the Regional Transportation Council in Dallas.

The Texas Transportation Committee meets in Austin Wednesday and Thursday to vote on the projects.

Some lawmakers have gotten a bit miffed that they were not involved in the decision-making process, Rep. Jim Dunham going so far as to call the pace of spending “staggering,” and TxDOT a “small fiefdom” (an epithet less barbed from its frequent use in Texas politics). Yet planning for stimulus fund use has been going on for at least four months, whether he was aware of it or not.

No matter how people might blanch at seeing such large sums of money slip away so quickly, the spending has in the barest technical sense met Obama’s much-emphasized requirements for oversight and transparency. So transparent is the four-day spending of $2.2 billion that Texans can watch it trickle away like flour through a sieve to the projects listed here.

Though hopefully the projects will prove beneficial in the long run, one can’t help but be a little Debbie Downer when considering the construction-related traffic a TxDOT with verdant coffers would precipitate.

Holly LaFon is a Dallas journalist who has written and worked for various area publications including D Magazine and Examiner.

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