adj. Relating to a construction site or project that can be started or implemented right away.
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Nearly every economist who spoke here agreed that a dollar invested in, say, a new transit system or in bridge repair is spent and respent more efficiently than a dollar that comes to a household in a tax cut. A bigger percentage of the latter is saved, they said. There was concern, however, that the nation lacked enough ''shovel ready'' projects that could be ramped up quickly, generating jobs.
—Louis Uchitelle, “Economists Warm to Government Spending but Debate Its Form,” The New York Times, January 07, 2009
The central bank has cut interest rates by 1.5% this fall to encourage borrowing, spending and business investment. But the Conference Board says rate cuts take a year and a half to fully kick in, and the economy can't wait.

It says federal government stimulus equal to as much as 1% of the economy should be targeted toward shovel-ready infrastructure projects, ensuring companies have access to credit, and putting cash into the hands of people who urgently need it.
—Kristine Owram, “Thinking stimulus,” The Toronto Sun, December 17, 2008
1995 (earliest)
Brewer noted that projects seeking approval from the state Board of Education have to be "shovel ready." That means plans must be drawn, environmental permits obtained, local approvals and money in hand, and construction ready to start.
—Brian S. McNiff, “Fight for funding may delay 3 schools,” Worcester Telegram & Gazette, February 22, 1995
Many thanks to Ben Zimmer for alerting me to the 1995 earliest citation.
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