Hearing concerns from transportation-industry contractors that other states are moving faster to convert federal stimulus dollars into construction projects and jobs, the legislature's Transportation Committee held a recent public hearing to learn from state officials and others about what's happening in Connecticut .

State lawmakers, business and labor representatives said they were disappointed that federal infrastructure stimulus dollars were not yet having much of an impact on Connecticut 's economy and workforce.

Administration officials explained that there's not as much stimulus money available for transportation projects as some believe. Many have assumed, they said, that Connecticut 's $3 billion stimulus infusion over the next two-three years would be primarily used for transportation improvements.

In fact, however, only $450 million of that package is firmly targeted for highway, bridge and transit projects. Nearly half of the $3 billion is slated for “fiscal stabilization” (including $561 million to K-12 education where preserving teaching positions is a priority) along with Medicaid reimbursements. It is possible that additional transportation dollars could be obtained.

What's more, said policymakers, states are not given the money up-front to do with as they please. The funds come with numerous federal bureaucratic strings attached, including applications, design reviews and numerous other prerequisites that must be approved before the state gains access to the funds.

Finally, some of the federal dollars are accessible through grants that states must apply for which, the administration explained, can be a time-consuming process.

The bottom line is that as of the end of July (and not including jobs associated with the “Workforce Summer Employment Act” designed to create summer jobs for 14-24 year olds) only 164 jobs created in conjunction with nine transportation projects could be attributed to the stimulus program in Connecticut .

State officials added that they expect the pace of job creation under the stimulus program will accelerate in the coming months despite Connecticut 's relatively short construction season that generally ends in late November or early December.

For more information, contact CBIA's Eric Brown at 860-244-1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.