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Stimulus Spot Check Instructions

Stimulus Spot Check has a simple goal -- we want a representative and statistically sound look into the status of stimulus-funded transportation projects. Our first story will be a progress report on these projects.

We are looking for three primary and one smaller data points for each of the 520 projects:
1.Project status/project start date
2. Company awarded contract for the project
3. Number of hours worked/month on the project
And ...
4. How hard/easy it was for you to get this information

You can find most of this information through Web searches and by calling the state Department of Transportation and the company awarded the contract.

When you submit information it must be sourced -- whether it's the person you spoke with at the state DOT or the company, or a link to a news article or page on the state DOT's Web site. We have found that some sources -- like state DOT Web sites -- do not always provide accurate information.

You can file information by going back to our chart and clicking-through "Report back" for your project. Or e-mail Amanda -- just make sure to include the federal ID for your project. You can track our progress by reviewing our chart -- we'll add information as it's submitted and verified. Still got questions? Comment below, drop into the chatroom or e-mail Amanda.


1. Find out the status of the project.

We're primarily interested in finding out if construction has started on your project. If not, we'd like to know whether the project is out to bid, under contract, or has been issued a Notice to Proceed.

Look at your project within the Stimulus Spot Check chart. The US DOT has already told us whether your project was issued a Notice to Proceed.

If it has, then you just need to find out if construction has started. Call the state DOT and ask them if they know whether work has begun. MAKE SURE to also write down and file to us the name and title of the person you spoke with, the date of your conversation and the person’s phone number. First time calling the DOT? Here are calling tips from Trent Larson and Rhiannon Bowman, two members of ProPublica's Reporting Network. Live nearby? Visit the site and look for evidence that construction has started. Take photos and file them with us. That's how Carol Nichols discovered that the published start date for the Fort Duquesne Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pa., was inaccurate.

You can also look online for news articles or reports about this project. If the news article reports that a project has already started, note the start date and send that to us with a link to the article. If the article projects a start date in the future, please look on the state's DOT Web site to verify. Let us know in your e-mail if the state's DOT Web site confirms the news report and provide a link.


2. Find out whether a company has been awarded a contract for the project, and if so, which company.

You can find this information on the state DOT's Web site, in a news article or by calling the DOT. Make sure that you provide sources for the information.

If you have extra time please ask for the company's DUNS number. It's a unique identifier that will come in handy later.


3. Number of hours worked/month on the project.

This is the trickiest question to answer. Obviously if the project hasn't been issued a Notice to Procced yet the default is "0." However, if the project has started, here's how you can find out how many hours have been worked on the project to date.

Companies are required to report jobs figures to the state DOT. The federal government says it will begin reporting back on these numbers in October 2009, but it encourages states to begin filling jobs reports before then. Recently the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing on stimulus job creation and used figures provided by the states. So, although the federal government is not yet reporting these figures, it's reasonable to assume that states are filing them. Why are we sharing this with you? Because you should know that you'll be asking for a number that states probably have on hand.

Here's how you can find out:

* Call the state DOT. You should ask several questions, in this order: First, how many jobs were created or saved by this project? Second, did the project require new hires or prevent layoffs, or both? Third, ask how they came up with that number. Is it based on hours worked? Fourth, how many hours have been worked to date on the project? Remember, you should also write down the name and title of the person you spoke with, the date of your conversation, and the person’s phone number. If the state DOT can't provide you an answer, then note that.

* Now call the press office for the company awarded the contract. DO NOT cite the answers provided to you by the state DOT; the point is to ask the same questions you asked the state DOT and see whether you get the same answers. Remember, you should also write down the name and title of the person you spoke with, the date of your conversation, and that person’s phone number.

4. Tell us how hard/easy it was for you to get this information.

ProPublica is collecting accounts and insights by its members as they monitor local stimulus projects. Your experiences will provide us useful information as we evaluate the administration's success at making the stimulus transparent from the ground up. After all, the most useful test is whether reasonably well-informed people can get answers to some basic questions.

We will survey you after this project to find out what worked and what didn't. Please keep notes so that you can be as specific as possible. Or, if you'd like, you can file short journals by e-mail.

Have questions? Post them in this comment thread and I'll answer them. Or visit me in our chat room. Or e-mail me directly at [email protected].

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