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The "Muse of Music" fountain in front of the Hollywood Bowl was completed in 1940 and designed by George Stanley, who also created the Oscar statuette. Lori Shepler, Lost Angeles Times
The Causeway of the Triborough Bridge, which spans New York's East River, linked Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan, starting in 1936. National Archives
Franklin D. Roosevelt tours construction of the Grand Coulee Dam, which opened on June 1, 1942. Seattle Times file
The Grand Coulee Dam, on the Columbia River in Central Washington, is the largest concrete structure and electric power producing facility in the United States. It is also part of an irrigation system. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's prescription for the Depression included the same general public works spending found in the economic recovery bill just signed by President Barack Obama. And FDR left a legacy of engineering marvels that still adorn the landscape - from the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and Grand Coulee Dam to La Guardia Airport and New York's Triborough Bridge.
But don't look for similar monuments to emerge from the new stimulus plan, despite its $787 billion price tag. Billions of dollars in infrastructure spending are likely to go for less glamorous projects, such as repaving battered streets, repairing rundown schools and replacing aging sewer lines.
"The 'shovel ready' requirement in the stimulus bill recently approved by Congress makes it difficult to include 'grand' public works projects," said Burbank City Manager Michael Flad.
So forget about stimulus money going to build Los Angeles' Subway to the Sea, a monumental project aimed at easing the city's legendary traffic problems, or for a long-sought rail extension to Los Angeles airport.
The tight timeline for the infrastructure spending makes such things all but impossible. Half of the money for highways and bridges must be obligated within 120 days, the other half within a year.
The intent is to put people to work and pump money into the economy quickly.
"So we concentrated on projects that were ready to go ... projects that were just waiting for the money so they could be built," said Jim Berard, spokesman for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "Most of those are not sexy things, but are badly needed nonetheless."
Still, Robert Poole, director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based free market think tank, said, "Obama's early statements on the stimulus - comparing its impact to that of Eisenhower's interstate highway program - created a false expectation that it would be comparable to the New Deal in building great new public works. The sad reality is that the bill Congress wrote and Obama signed is mostly make-work stuff."
New Deal projects included some of the same kind of work that is expected to be funded by the stimulus. But it also included projects that stand out today, from works of art such as the monuments to astronomers in front of Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory and an Art Deco-inspired fountain in front of the Hollywood Bowl to public works such as the Outer Drive Bridge that provides a key link in Chicago's lakefront road system.
In contrast to such broad thinking, Orange County Transportation Authority will likely use $65 million to add a lane about 7 miles long to the 91 Freeway.
"It may not be the Hoover Dam," said Orange County's Joel Zlotnik, "but for the thousands of people stuck in that freeway gridlock every day, I think they'll appreciate it just as much."
Many of the projects may not be glamorous, but they'll put people to work, the bill's supporters say.
"Resurfacing, painting, lighting and maintenance programs are not as flashy as building a new bridge but as projects they are no less important," said Jeff Solsby of the American Road and Transportation Builders Assn. "They provide important benefits and create jobs to grow the economy."
After the Northern California city of Hercules drew criticism for listing a duck pond park and dog park as possible uses of stimulus money, the city declared in a statement: "Any job that puts someone to work is vital to both that individual, our community's, and our nation's, overall economic well-being."
Some big projects, nonetheless, may move forward under the stimulus bill. New York and New Jersey hope to receive $1.5 billion toward a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
Gray Brechin, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's geography department and project scholar of California's Living New Deal Project that is cataloging FDR's public works legacy, suggested that it may not be so bad that a large chunk of the spending is going to maintain existing infrastructure.
Noting that the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the condition of U.S. infrastructure a grade of D, he said, "We now have an enormous hole out of which to climb. It's a good thing that the New Deal workers built as well as they did since they never could have imagined that we would stop maintaining what they left us."