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Few MoDOT construction stimulus projects will be in Pulaski County
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (March 20, 2009) — While Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has been touting the state’s first-in-the-nation status putting President Barack Obama’s stimulus package funds to work on state road projects, only a few of the new projects are in or near Pulaski County.

One of those projects is an $888,000 thin-lift overlay on Route 28 from Dixon to the junction of Route 63 in Maries County. Most of that work will be in Maries rather than Pulaski County.

Another stimulus project in Pulaski County involves $1.2 million for asphalt milling and filling on the business loop of Interstate 44, which runs along Old Route 66 from the I-44 Spur in St. Robert at Exit 161 that’s more commonly known as Missouri Avenue to Route H in Waynesville, which is near Exit 156.

A larger project in Phelps County will spend $12 million for major pavement rehabilitation and reconstruction on the westbound lanes of Interstate 44 from the business loop in Rolla to the Sugartree Road interchange.

“These projects were selected to maximize job creation, provide the greatest economic benefit and make our transportation system better and safer,” said Tom Stehn, MoDOT’s south-central district engineer, in a prepared statement issued Friday.

The Waynesville-St. Robert resurfacing project was announced Thursday. The Route 28 project and Interstate 44 resurfacing project in Rolla were among 32 projects approved on March 4 and included on a final list approved at a special Thursday meeting of the Missouri Transportation Commission. Four projects began on Feb. 17 including the first-in-the-nation Tuscumbia Bridge work to replace the bridge in Miller County on Route 17 over the Osage River about a mile east of Tuscumbia, with an estimated cost of $8.5 million.

Job creation estimates have differed widely. In a March 4 prepared statement, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn said he expects Missouri will receive $637 million for road and bridge projects and about $150 million for air, rail, transit, waterway and pedestrian projects statewide, supporting an estimated 14,000 jobs with an estimated economic impact of $2.4 billion on the state’s economy.

Those numbers were changed to $577 million and 22,000 jobs following Thursday’s special transportation commission meeting. The $577 announced is slightly more than the $525 million MoDOT has left to spend, according to a MoDOT press release, “because the department built in additional money to ensure it will qualify for redistribution of funds from other states if they become available.”

Some states have declined to accept some of the federal stimulus funding and others may not be able to get projects underway quickly enough to meet federal guidelines. However, Rahn cautioned that budgeting extra projects doesn’t mean projects will be cut if the money runs out.

“Our project bids have been coming in 10 percent to 15 percent under budget,” Rahn said. “We built an extra 10 percent into the project list to make sure we could go after funds that other states don’t spend. Even if those funds don’t become available, we’re committed to delivering every project on the list.”

However, Rahn said he’s optimistic about the ability of the stimulus package to benefit transportation needs in Missouri.

“We’re aggressive in getting these stimulus projects going for two major reasons: we want to put Missourians to work fast, and we want to show that investing in transportation infrastructure provides immediate economic relief,” Rahn said. “These are projects we could have ready to go quickly to create or maintain jobs. They will make our highway system better and safer and save lives.”

Missouri’s share of the stimulus package is a small part of the $48 billion available nationwide for transportation work, and that $48 billion is only 6 percent of the full $787 billion economic stimulus package. Rahn warned that economic stimulus funds “won’t come close to meeting” the $31 billion in Missouri transportation needs projected for the next 20 years.

“Still, it’s a step in the right direction,” Rahn said.

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