So What Happened to “Shovel Ready”?

Bumper-to-bumper traffic is incredibly frustrating when you have no idea as to the cause of it. That’s the way it goes in the Washington, DC metro area! And, while I know there is construction and repair to the transportation arteries in and around the DC metro area, seemingly, I must have the world’s worst short term memory, because every day I get frustrated in my effort to get home. Until the other day…

Speaking recently in Kansas, President Obama said, “I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot”. Hearing the President talk about the US facing “a make or break moment for the middle class”: I recalled from high school history class that middle class growth was at its greatest starting in the 50’s and throughout the 70’s.

So, I got on the “Google Machine” and started searching for any information that would satisfy my curiosity about middle class growth during that 30 year period and its contributors. One of the biggest contributors to job growth and the rise of the US middle class was Infrastructure expansion. Two years ago the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law giving $46 billion for transportation projects, including $27 billion for highway and bridge construction and repair and $11.5 billion for mass transit and rail projects. Wow, I thought, this ought to create jobs and alleviate the congestion that causes me so much aggravation; that was 2 years ago!! What happened?

When the bill was signed into law February 17, 2009, the general consensus among the bill’s supporters was the large projects were “shovel ready”. No, sir; at the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Durham, N.C. on June 13, 2011, President Obama joked "Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected."  I wondered, “Is the shoveling working?”

According to, Permits for the “Shovel Ready” Projects are slowing down the process considerably:

“The fact is that our current requirements for permitting weigh America’s building process down like a boulder. Taking on a major project such as a bridge means an automatic 5 years of environmental reviews, nonstop treks through permitting regulations, and other delays presented by all levels of government. All this hassle is a big reason why we squeezed so few new projects out of the 2009 stimulus — repaving roads that already exist is much easier to get past permitting rules and Congressional constituencies than building something big and new.”

Addressing this issue at a press conference, November 17, 2011, House Speaker John Boehner spoke on the delayed job creation and the slowdown of “Shovel Ready” infrastructure projects. The American Energy Production & Infrastructure Jobs Bill he is proposing to Congress is designed to make the process much less complicated.

“These bills show that there can be common ground here in Washington when it comes to removing these barriers to job growth. But I think there’s a lot more that we can do. We can also eliminate more obstacles to jobs –find more common ground – especially in the areas of energy production and infrastructure. We don’t need more short-term ‘stimulus’ gimmicks. We don’t need more red tape. And we surely don’t need higher taxes. What we need to do is get Washington out of the way, and free job creators from the shackles of a government that is always meddling and micromanaging our economy.”

Having both, the President and the Speaker of the House focused on job creation through infrastructure projects is a true relief for me and all the other poor saps trapped in gridlock traffic.