MoDOT: 34 projects ready to go if funding comes through

Saturday, December 6, 2008

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Transportation has 34 projects that could be awarded within 180 days if Congress passes an economic stimulus project with money for infrastructure improvements.

Department director Pete Rahn said the federal government package would need to include at least $25 billion for transportation infrastructure nationwide. He spoke at a Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission meeting Friday in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield.

"If Congress passes an economic stimulus package, we are ready to go," he said, adding the projects would create 14,000 jobs if they are allowed to proceed.

He said the cost of the Missouri projects would total $510 million, but the state could proceed with another $290 million more in transportation projects next year if additional funds became available.

Some of the projects were planned to begin in several years, and some will not happen if new federal transportation funds are not approved, Rahn said.

He said the projects would include $137 million in work on Interstates 70, 44, 55, 35 and 29. Another $60 million would be spent for routes in rural Missouri. And the proposed package includes projects for different forms of transportation, including highway, bridge, rail, air, waterway, public transportation and pedestrian projects.

Seventeen of the proposed projects are already in the state's five-year construction program, while another 17 are new projects.

Rahn said the transportation department had worked hard to prepare the projects if money comes through, but called the projects a wish list.

"We just mail our wish list to Washington and not the North Pole," he said.

At the meeting, several officials representing St. Louis and St. Charles counties made a pitch for awarding anywhere from $160 million to $200 million to connect sections of Route 141 in St. Louis County, saying it would be a vital north-south highway for the region.

The transportation department's list includes $8 million for Route 141 improvements to add turn and auxiliary lanes from Interstate 64 to St. Luke's Hospital Drive, if $510 million were available.

The last item on the list is another $116 million for Route 141 from St. Luke's Hospital Drive to Route 340, but that would happen only if millions more were offered.

Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who represents parts of St. Charles and St. Louis counties, said he also got the clear message that those in the room are seeking infrastructure dollars.

He said if money becomes available, "I certainly believe that money could be well spent here."

Akin did not predict how much transportation infrastructure money might become available through any economic stimulus package, saying the packages are "extremely plastic" right now.

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