The money you pay the federal government in taxes gets spent in a lot of different ways. Lately, the feds have been spending a lot of money trying to revive the economy. A new round of stimulus spending is just around the corner and some of that money will be spent in Missouri and Illinois. As part of an $825 billion dollar economic stimulus plan, President Obama wants to spend money repairing and constructing new infrastructure; things like roads, bridges and schools. By doing so, the projects will create a lot of jobs and have a long lasting economic impact on communities.
News 4 Investigates took a close look at the infrastructure projects that the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County are proposing to be included in this massive stimulus plan. The city compiled a list of 131 projects that would cost a total of $2.4 billion. STL Projects.pdf Here's a link to the city's entire list, plus photos and descriptions of some of the projects. The county has a list of 94 projects that add up to $1.8 billion. Click here to see the county's entire list.
An examination of the projects found that most focus on repairing and improving basic infrastructure that's been neglected for years. As an example, the city would like to spend $35 million to rebuild the 77 year old Tucker Bridge and the county would like to spend $32 million on stormwater improvements in Florissant. The projects range from road rebuilding to replacing old, inefficient heating and air conditioning systems, to making improvements at recreation centers, public housing and walking trails. Some of the projects that stand out include a request for $900 million for a new north-south extension of Metrolink in the city, with the promise it can be completed by the end of 2010. However, Metro's reputation for doing things on-time and within budget has suffered in recent years. St. Louis County wants to spend $40 million to build a new parking garage and make road improvements for South County Mall. They say it would be better than using TIF money, the standard funding method, which reduces the tax money that goes to schools. There's also a plan to build an additional greenhouse at the Danforth Plant Science Center, extend Highway 141 north to Page Avenue at a cost of $200 million, add a trolley to Delmar Boulevard and spend $81 million for infrastructure improvements at Lambert Airport. That would be on top of the $100 million in improvements to the terminals.
The city and county have high hopes they can create tens of thousands of new jobs, while making significant infrastructure improvements that can greatly enhance the quality of life in the region. And if they could get all the money they're asking for, these projects would definitely do that. But projections by The East West Gateway Council of Governments show that local governments will only get a small fraction of the money they say they need. And keep this in mind; every city, county and taxing agency that builds infrastructure is asking for their piece of the pie. That means MODOT, MSD MSD List.zip, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, St. Clair County, Madison County and on and on, will be competing for a slice of the pie. The list of projects submitted from across the country add up to a mind-blowing $96 trillion. But, as it stands now, only $350 billion will be spent on infrastructure and the Congressional Budget Office is projecting that only $136 billion will be able to be spent as quickly as the president would like to see all of it spent, which is by the end of 2010. Bottom line, compiling the lists was a good exercise to identify infrastructure needs, but it may set cities up for a big disappointment when the money gets handed out.