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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 23, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Rebuilding America

Expand the definition of “shovel ready”

For companies contracting with local jurisdictions, the last few months have been difficult. Jurisdictions have been slashing budgets, and the first cuts have come in the form of contracted services.

On Feb. 17, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a bill containing billions of dollars for infrastructure projects, passed. Overnight, thousands of contracted projects had new life breathed into them.

To accomplish the Herculean task of distributing ARRA’s billions to local jurisdictions quickly, many of the funds have been distributed through existing federal and state grant-funding mechanisms. Unfortunately, ARRA funds come laden with a toxic provision: a “shovel-ready” stipulation that requires that funded projects be designed, permitted, and ready to construct.

Small jurisdictions don’t design or permit projects until funding has been secured. Thus, they are ineligible for ARRA funding unless they can design and permit their projects in an unreasonably short time frame (one or two weeks).

The “shovel-ready” provision provides an unfair advantage to large, well-funded jurisdictions with the resources to design and permit projects without secured funding. What’s more, the (mostly small) design firms that contract with small jurisdictions are hurting.

The ARRA’s shovel-ready provision renders it a temporary approach to restoring economic vitality. Allowing jurisdictions to secure stimulus funding for design of future projects will not only preserve private-sector jobs. It will ensure a sustainable pipeline of projects ready to implement over the coming years.

— Mark Hillinger, Seattle

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