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Stimulus Road Money Shortchanges Hard-Hit Counties

This morning, The Associated Press published an investigation showing that stimulus road and bridge projects aren't going to the communities with the highest unemployment rates. It's an early test for President Obama's promise that the $787 billion stimulus package will create jobs in areas hit hard by the recession. Aside from being the most concrete way of seeing how the stimulus is working, highway projects are expected to create 765,000 jobs, about a fifth of the estimated 3.5 million jobs.

The AP analyzed the 2,800 projects approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation along with the proposed plans of states and territories. One of the main reasons for the disparity is that the stimulus puts an emphasis on projects that are ready to go, and struggling communities can't afford the millions of dollars it takes for planning to get to that point.

ProPublica has previously reported about the disparity on the state level. States with high unemployment, like Michigan, will get some of the lowest transportation funding per person, while states with low unemployment, like Wyoming, get some of the highest. In crafting the stimulus bill to get money out the door quickly, Congress relied on existing transportation formulas that favor such factors as the number of highway miles, rather than unemployment.

Here's a chart comparing state funding and unemployment rate. And here's the AP's map showing the road and bridge projects by county.

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