March 3 2009 by Chris McGinnis
I know there is a lot of angst, bickering and confusion about the recent passage of the federal stimulus package that will inject $800 billion into our sputtering economy.
But you know what? Those of us who spend much of our lives on the nation's highways are going to be some of the first to enjoy the results of this massive spending. Smoother, wider and more technologically advanced roads are just around the corner.
Right now, the Feds are doling out a total of $27.5 billion for highway infrastructure improvements, and the largest and most populous states get the biggest chunks. For example, California and Texas get over $2 billion each. Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York and Ohio get around $1 billion each. (to see how much your state is getting, check out this chart from the Federal Highway Administration.)
What's best (and worst) about most highway projects is that they are "shovel ready." This means that the projects are designed, ready to go and are just waiting for funding. So as soon as the stimulus cash hits the bank, tractors roll. That's great news for sorely needed improvements.
Not so great news: highway construction causes delays, detours and other headaches. (I remember driving across Kansas twice one summer when it appeared that highways were not just getting repaved, but replaced, resulting in hundreds of miles of stopping, starting and sharing lanes with oncoming traffic. Out in the middle of nowhere. 100+ degrees. No fun.)
So as we enter a phase of highway construction hyperactivity, business travelers should always check ahead of time for any roadwork related delays. The Federal Highway Administration provides a helpful Web site that monitors traffic and road closure information and updates. You can also call 511 in many states for similar updates.
Here's an interesting nugget I picked up while perusing the Federal Highway Administration Web site: The BEST months for road trips (i.e. those months with the lowest number of cars on the road) are January, February, September, November and December. Roads are most crowded between April and August.