Illinois Leads in Stimulus Highway Funds
By Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer
|STIMULUS TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS|
The Obama administration has approved $6.5 billion of the $27.5 billion the federal stimulus package sets aside for highways and bridges. So far, Illinois ranks first in the number of projects and amount of federal dollars.
Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Ohio and Virginia have yet to have any projects approved.
|Source: The U.S. Department of Transportation, APril 2009|
In states' quest to get the most federal transportation recovery dollars the quickest, Illinois has jumped to the front of the pack.
Of the more than 2,000 transportation projects that President Obama announced April 13 had won federal approval for stimulus money so far, Illinois snagged 249 projects and $606 million.
Texas was second both in the number of projects (164) and for the amount of money ($533 million).
Tennessee, Iowa and Pennsylvania rounded out the top five states with the most number of transportation projects, and Oklahoma, Tennessee and New Jersey ranked after Illinois and Texas in getting the most transportation funding to date.
Dead last are Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Ohio and Virginia, which have yet to have any transportation projects formally approved under the stimulus package.
Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood both represented Illinois on Capitol Hill, but the administration says favoritism didn't play a role in the state's landing the lion's share of the projects and funding so far.
"The way these projects came in to us was up to the states. We didn't go to them (Illinois officials) and say `hurry up and get your stuff in Illinois,'" said Lori Irving, a U.S. Department of Transportation spokeswoman. The process "was really driven by the individual states," she said.
The $6.5 billion for these 2,081 projects is part of $48.1 billion that the stimulus package has set aside for transportation projects. Of that, $27.5 billion is for highways and bridges, $8.4 billion for high-speed rail and $1.3 billion for Amtrak.
The 2,000th project, to widen Interstate 94 in Kalamazoo County, Mich., received $56 million. Other approved projects include $80 million to repair the South Jersey Expressway; nearly $62 million to fix part of the US-69 Corridor in Overland Park and Lenexa, Kan.; and $50 million to construct a four-lane expressway in Brook County, Texas.
The Illinois projects include $29 million to replace a bridge and build a new interchange on Interstates 55 and 70 in Madison County and $5.5 million to resurface a portion of Route 137 in northeast Illinois.
States are under enormous pressure to get shovels in the ground. They have until June 17 to use half of their share of highway funds for "quick-start" projects or risk losing the money.
Maryland announced in March that it was the first state in the country to meet all requirements, locking in its $431 million share.