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Stimulus projects stuck on the ground

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Steve Chiotakis: President Obama kicked off the first stimulus-funded road project back in March: a repaving job in suburban Washington D.C. Nearly eight months later, it’s almost completed. Marketplace has been keeping tabs on the project. And reporter Elizabeth Threlkeld says while the project is wrapping up, many others are not.

Elizabeth Threlkeld: New Hampshire Avenue is getting a paint job. Workers are laying down 3-foot long strips of white paint at a crosswalk. It’s the last step in a repaving project.

Scot Dauphinais: Basically just put it down and then with a propane torch they melt all the edges together and it forms just one uniform bar all the way across.

That’s project manager Scot Dauphinais. He says he’s relieved the job is wrapping up.

Dauphinais: There was a lot eyes on us since this was the first job in the country for the stimulus plan.

This is one of only a few stimulus transportation projects that’s actually finished. Most are just getting started.

Eric Gillespie: It takes a while to spend a trillion dollars.

Eric Gillespie is chief information officer for Onvia, a research firm that tracks stimulus spending at He says a lot of stimulus money has been committed to states. But not all the funds haven’t their way to actual projects yet.

Gillespie: I think the timeline was aggressive from the beginning, and the view was pretty optimistic. The projects today that are underway, I would say, are fewer than anyone expected.

The federal government has promised to fund over $35 billion in stimulus road projects. Gillespie says they’ve only cut checks to contractors for close to $14 billion so far.

Another reason for the slow start is logistics. Victor Mendez is head of the Federal Highway Administration.

Victor Mendez: We’re kind of venturing now into the next phase of the more complex, larger projects that have taken a little bit longer to get them ready actually to contract out.

Once more stimulus money starts flowing, planners are hoping all the end up like the first one in Maryland — on time and under budget.

In Washington, I’m Elizabeth Threlkeld for Marketplace.

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