Where’s stimulus money for rehab projects?

There’s been a lot of noise lately about how the federal stimulus funding hasn’t been spent fast enough to do any good. The Republicans are nipping at President Obama’s heels, while he counsels patience. Could it be that we’ve planned to spend the funds on the wrong projects? All we seem to hear is that the stimulus money will build lots of highway improvements. Anybody who knows highways knows that these are among the least “shovel-ready” of any kind of project. Planning, engineering, environmental compliance, land acquisition, bidding — all of it can take years, and the end result is that we create more suburban sprawl and are more dependent on the car than ever.

Would it maybe have been much wiser to spend stimulus money on re-building and maintaining our existing communities? The Ohio Historic Preservation Office put together a list of hundreds and hundreds of restoration and rehabilitation projects across Ohio that truly are shovel-ready. Building owners are ready to start. It takes maybe 30 to 90 days to bid a project and get it under contract. Even starting from scratch, from the start of planning to start of construction might take only four to six months. And the result? How about: community landmarks saved from demolition; return of vacant structures to the marketplace; creation of new residential and commercial space in our historic downtown areas; strengthening of the local tax base; employment of small businesses — carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters; improved life-safety in rehabilitated buildings; and more energy-efficient buildings. This makes so much more sense than building more highways that you have to ask yourself, why aren’t we doing this? Could it be that the highway lobby is bigger than the preservation lobby?

One Response to Where’s stimulus money for rehab projects?

  1. Carol Jenson says:

    I’m so glad someone is putting this out there for public discussion. I’ve had the same thought many times as I pass hundreds of orange barrels worth of road construction while vacant downtown houses are torn to the ground creating worsening neighborhood blight.