Transportation stimulus money heads for farm country

Dante Chinni, Project Director
Posted: 10.22.2009 / 8:30 AM PDT


When it comes to securing highway funds from the federal stimulus package, there is one clear winner thus far: rural, agricultural America.

The 287 counties identified as “Tractor Country” in Patchwork Nation have received an average of $144 per capita in stimulus highway dollars, according to a new analysis by the Patchwork Nation project and ProPublica, an independent nonprofit news organization. That is by far the largest per capita amount.

The next closest, at $21 per capita, are the 362 counties of “Minority Central” (places with many African-Americans or native Americans). Bringing up the rear are America’s 41 big-city counties – the “Industrial Metropolis.” They have secured only 41 cents per capita.

This analysis measures dollars from the stimulus that are going to road and bridge projects in specific counties as of Sept. 25. It does not include statewide grants that may be spent in any number of jurisdictions. The dollars that could be tracked to a specific county, however, make up the bulk of the transportation money spent so far – more than 90 percent.

A few trends are apparent from our analysis. First, the money is being dispersed slowly: In most of our 12 community types, only about 10 percent has been spent. Second, in many cases, it is not going to the places that arguably need it most – the places with the highest levels of unemployment.

Patchwork Nation

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