Wednesday, March 11, 2009
AUSTIN - Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials recommended that transportation projects be funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), commonly known as the economic stimulus package. Stimulus fund spending was approved by the Texas Transportation Commission at a special meeting today.
Commission action on more than $1 billion in stimulus spending was delayed for a week so that commissioners and TxDOT staff could continue working with local, state and federal officials to identify and evaluate additional projects. As a result of those discussions, TxDOT staff added six projects to its February 25 draft recommendation for economic stimulus spending.
The commission approved allocating $1.2 billion in stimulus funds for 29 construction projects across the state. Most of the projects will be built with financial support from other agencies and resources. As a result of pooling other funds with ARRA money, stimulus-related construction will build more than $2.6 billion in new transportation projects for the state.
The commission also renewed its support for roadway and bridge maintenance and rehabilitation projects valued at more than $500 million. The list of maintenance projects advanced with economic stimulus funds was amended to include 10 additional projects in counties classified by the federal government as economically distressed. At the staff's recommendation, 22 projects previously identified for stimulus money will now be funded through TxDOT's maintenance program for Fiscal Year 2010 and will be let to contract by September 2009.
"Texas is making the most of our economic stimulus funds," said Deirdre Delisi, Texas Transportation Commission Chair. "We are working with local partners to build long-needed projects and to maintain a reliable and safe transportation system. Today's vote reflects four months of hard work by TxDOT staff and community leaders. Now, it's time to put Texans to work."
The projects recommended by TxDOT's staff were selected from billions of dollars of projects identified by local and state leaders as eligible for economic stimulus spending. The ARRA requires projects to be "ready-to-go" in the immediate future.
The Federal Highway Administration instructed state transportation officials to give priority to projects that can be completed quickly, projects that are in economically distressed areas, and projects that maximize job creation and economic benefit.
TxDOT staff and local officials agreed on six criteria for evaluating mobility projects that would receive stimulus funds: (1) projects that improve the safety of the transportation system; (2) projects on corridors of statewide significance or regional priority; (3) projects that leverage or pool resources; (4) projects that create long-term economic benefit to the communities and region that they serve; (5) projects in areas that are economically distressed; and (6) fair and equitable distribution of projects around the state. The priority and preference selection criteria described in the ARRA and the FHWA guidelines were subsequently used in the evaluation process to develop the lists of projects recommended for funding under the ARRA.
TxDOT staff estimates that it could let contracts in April 2009 that would spend more than $750 million of stimulus funds. By May of 2010, the department predicts that it will have let contracts for $1.7 billion in stimulus funds that, together with other investments, will generate $3.1 billion in maintenance and mobility projects for Texas. Based on FHWA estimates, $3.5 billion in transportation spending would support more than 90,000 jobs.
The commission previously approved TxDOT's support for 10 aviation projects valued at $49.7 million and voted for stimulus spending on 39 public transportation projects valued at $32.8 million for rural program operators.
The Texas Department of Transportation
The Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining nearly 80,000 miles of road and for supporting aviation, rail and public transportation across the state. TxDOT and its 15,000 employees strive to empower local leaders to solve local transportation problems, and to use new financial tools, including tolling and public-private partnerships, to reduce congestion and pave the way for future economic growth while enhancing safety, improving air quality and preserving the value of the state's transportation assets.
For more news: http://www.txdot.gov/news/009-2009.htm