More than $3 billion in highway stimulus already granted

WASHINGTON Thu Apr 2, 2009 6:14pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Roughly six weeks since a $787 billion economic stimulus plan became law, millions of dollars are flowing to transportation projects across the United States, according to a congressional committee's progress report released late Thursday.

In the past four weeks, 35 states have submitted and received approval for nearly 1,000 highway maintenance projects totaling $3.4 billion, which represents 10 percent of the total highway allotment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the report summary said.

The money is going to projects such as Utah's $15 million endeavor to widen its Highway 108, according to the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Of the $6.8 billion allotted for public transportation, $46.3 million has already been awarded to states, mainly to Kentucky, Maine and Missouri, the committee said.

The government has also given $1.3 billion to the nation's passenger rail service, Amtrak, to repair bridges and passenger cars and the Federal Rail Administration has selected a contractor to oversee the $8 billion high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail grant programs.

The administration must provide Congress with a plan for distributing the rail money to states by April 18. A spokesman told Reuters it will likely be announced the week of April 13.

The chairman of the House transportation committee, Representative Jim Oberstar, a Democrat from Minnesota, pledged to keep a close eye on how states deploy the stimulus funding, to make sure it is spent quickly and fairly. Much of the law had "use it or lose it" provisions with tight deadlines.

Still, the report focused more on the federal government's progress in getting money to the states. It breaks down, for example the "best estimate of the set of the projects that will receive Recovery Act funding" for airport improvement.

Most of the $1.1 billion set aside in the bill to spruce up airports -- $474 million -- will go to runway improvement and another $205 million will to taxiway improvement.

According to the report, only 14 states and Puerto Rico have applied for their share of the $4 billion to construct, rehabilitate and modernize wastewater infrastructure.

Washington, D.C., will benefit from being the nation's capital during the recovery act's implementation. It will receive a large portion of the $5.55 billion to update federal buildings and courthouses. The Smithsonian Institution, which has facilities in the city, also will use $25 million for repairs and updating the National Zoological Park.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Jan Pachal)

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