Given the enormous need versus the amount the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ultimately devoted to infrastructure, hopes were inevitably dashed when President Barack Obama signed the legislation on Feb. 17.

But in general, readers who'd applied for funding when our survey was deployed April 15 were happy with the results.

“It would‘ve been years before we would have been able to tackle this most needed pavement-overlay project,” wrote one. Not surprisingly, resurfacing and preservation projects, which could be deployed quickly enough to meet the legislation's requirements, dominate the list of approved projects.

Though only $6 billion was made available in loans for water-related projects, managers of water, sewer, and waste-water agencies were similarly grateful.

“This is the start we need to have our system ready for new residential and commercial development,” wrote Gery Marmaduke, city administrator for Hillsboro, Mo., which is waiting to hear back about its request to upgrade water mains from 8 to 12 inches and build a well and 750,000-gallon water tank. Another PUBLIC WORKS reader is receiving funding to make two improvements to a 30-year-old combined sanitary sewer system. “I'm not surprised,” he wrote. “They both have a large impact on conveyance.”

Regardless of their area of responsibility, unsuccessful petitioners are frustrated by the lack of information about why a particular request was denied.

  • “Seems like all projects were large city ones. They could have spread around the funding more to all size municipalities and villages.”
  • “There weren't any projects within a 50-mile radius that received funding.”
  • “It's not what you need, but who you know.”

Why were some requests successful and others not? How much will the legislation help assets that were in poor, almost dangerous, shape? What impact will it have on the long-term health of the individual infrastructure sector? How will the Obama administration's promise to U.S. citizens regarding government transparency and accountability affect operations that are already squeezed for resources?

Beginning in August, we'll be exploring these and other topics in a series of magazine and investigations. E-mail with questions you'd like to have answered.