Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stimulus Politics? FAA Funds Low Priority Projects

The stimulus appropriations included $1.1 billion to the FAA for high priority airport construction projects. FAA procedures rate project priority on a scale of 1 to 100, and in a typical fiscal year, FAA grants go only to projects scoring above 41 on the agency's priority scale. When the stimulus legislation passed, the agency adjusted its grant process for stimulus funds by raising the priority score threshhold to a minimum of 62.

Now that specific FAA stimulus grants have been announced, however, it turns out that nearly a quarter of the appropriation, or over $270 million, will go to projects ranked below the 62 point threshhold. At least five of the stimulus finded projects fail the ordinary requirement of scoring above 41. The lowest ranked of all stimulus grants will be $1 million for baggage handling at the Rockford, Illinois International Airport, which primarily serves cargo planes, and $1.85 million to expand the passenger terminal at the Pocatello, Idaho Regional Airport. Those two projects both received priority ratings of 31 points.

Three other projects which will get stimulus funding, despite ranking below the FAA's usual 41 point priority floor, including $14.7 million for the Ouzinkie, Alaska airport, $14.0 million for the Akiachak, Alaska airport, and $11.6 million for the Freeland, Michigan airport. That's a total of $43.15 million in stimulus grants for projects the FAA would never have funded even under its usual process. So much for the idea that stimulus spending would be scrutinized for wasteful abuse.
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