VOL. 124 | NO. 33 | Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Lawmakers Raise Concerns Over TDOT Stimulus Money
By ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee wants to quickly contract out all of its $572 million in federal transportation stimulus money, but some state lawmakers are raising concerns that their districts aren't in line for enough road and bridge projects.
"I've got a county or two that had nothing on the list, and my home county had one little bridge on one little road out in the country," Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, said at a Senate Transportation Committee hearing on Tuesday.
State Transportation Commissioner Jerry Nicely told the panel that states that do not contract out at least half of their federal money within 120 days will lose it to other states.
By contracting out all of Tennessee's stimulus money by June, the state hopes to be in line to pick up any funding that might be forfeited by other states. The federal money could save or create about 25,000 jobs in the state, Nicely said.
TDOT has posted on its Web site a list of $850 million worth of road and bridge projects that are considered ready to get under way and be completed within three years.
"I know this is targeted to be a stimulus," Jackson said. "At the same time, I sure hope we can be as balanced with the distribution of money as possible."
"I'm just pointing out that there just might be some holes in the doughnut here," he said.
Republican Sen. Ken Yager of Harriman agreed that some geographical areas have a dearth of projects on the TDOT list.
"Ironically and unfortunately, some of the counties in my district that have the highest unemployment are apparently not any short list for stimulus money," he said. "An example that comes to mind is Rhea County."
Nicely noted that the federal stimulus money represents the equivalent of almost a year's worth of regular federal road money for Tennessee, and that completing a large number of projects quickly will jump start other projects.
"If we're able to get these projects ready right now, that means our regular money can be used for projects we probably wouldn't have gotten to," he said.
On the Net:
TDOT projects eligible for stimulus money: http://tinyurl.com/cwbyg4
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