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Cities claim they're short-changed on stimulus money

They've received about half the transportation funding allotted so far. But mayors say cities' economic clout warrants a bigger share.

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Traffic stacks up on the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles. Los Angeles, which is getting 25 percent of California’s surface transportation stimulus money, produces about 40 percent of the state’s economic output.

Kevork Djansezian/AP/FILE

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States to cities: No stimulus funding for you!

OK, that’s an exaggeration. States around the country are actually handing big urban centers tens of millions of dollars in fed-provided stimulus cash, for everything from education to law enforcement.

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But in one big category – shovel-ready surface transportation projects – cities are not getting their fair share of stimulus bill money, according to a report released today by IHS Global Insight.

Cities are “receiving significantly less than a proportionate amount of funding, and less than that which would reflect their role and importance in the economy and its recovery,” says the study, prepared by the US Conference of Mayors.

Surface transportation money from the stimulus bill is being funneled through the Federal Highway Administration, and then to state governments, who distribute the cash to individual projects.

So far, about $18.26 billion-worth of projects has been approved, according to IHS. Of that, the top 85 metro areas in the US have received $8.8 billion, or about 48 percent of the total amount. However, these same areas comprise 63 percent of the nation’s total population and 73 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

“Importantly, we project that 94 percent of the nation’s future economic growth will come from these and other metro areas, giving further importance to our finding that the nation’s largest metro areas are being disadvantaged by state-based allocation processes,” says the IHS study.

Los Angeles is getting 25 percent of California’s surface transportation stimulus money yet produces about 40 percent of the state’s economic output. (Plus, it has horrible traffic.)

This gap is even wider in Massachusetts. Boston is getting 20 percent of stimulus funding yet produces 77 percent of state GDP.

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Of course, the struggle between urban and rural areas for political power and economic resources has been an issue in the states since, well, the Founding Fathers drew up the Constitution. So in that sense this is just the latest act in a very long-running play.

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