President Barack Obama has signed the stimulus bill, but the waiting game continues for cities and towns hoping to break ground on new projects with federal funding.
President Obama has signed the stimulus bill, but the waiting game continues for cities and towns hoping to break ground on new projects with federal dollars.
The state is still reviewing thousands of local proposals competing for infrastructure funding to determine if they are “shovel ready,” or ready to move forward almost immediately.
Most of those seeking money are likely to be disappointed.
Of the $11 billion the state is estimated to receive, Gov. Deval Patrick said last week that about $1 to $2 billion will go to infrastructure projects.
But towns and cities across the state have submitted more than 4,500 projects totaling more than $16 billion — and that’s on top of more than 3,000 state projects that add up to another $9.5 billion.
Unlike projects put forward by state agencies, the local proposals have undergone a lengthier review process as officials gather more details to confirm their readiness.
Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said the scope of local projects reflects a “dramatic underinvestment” in local infrastructure and the need to find alternative financing for these projects moving forward.
“We are urging the state to resist the temptation to disproportionately see this as an opportunity to fund state projects,” Beckwith said.
Projects from southeastern Massachusetts that already made the shovel-ready list include nearly $7 million in road resurfacing projects, more than $8 million in river restoration work and $56 million for an access road needed for the SouthField development in Weymouth, as well as trail upgrades, harbor improvements and dam removals.
Most notably, the list also includes dozens of projects totaling nearly $170 million from both Massasoit Community College and Bridgewater State.
State officials say even these ready-to-go projects carry no guarantees if they don’t fit federal funding formulas, and those still pending review may become prioritized.
The state asked cities and towns in December to submit projects to be considered for stimulus funding. Over the past six weeks, task forces charged with evaluating those proposals worked under criteria based on their best understanding of how the stimulus debate in Washington may turn out.
Kimberly Haberlin, a Patrick spokeswoman, said in a statement Tuesday that the state has been working with local officials to prioritize projects based on “how quickly shovels can go in the ground, infrastructure needs, regional equity issues and other criteria.”
As the state reviews the funding requirements, the administration will “continue to work with our partners in local government to identify projects that put people to work immediately and have long-term economic value for the entire commonwealth,” Haberlin said.
The primary objective of infusing money into new infrastructure is job creation. The White House estimated Tuesday that stimulus funds could create up to 79,000 jobs in Massachusetts.
Nancy Reardon may be reached at email@example.com.