Daily Dirt

Vermont Starts Stimulus Spending

Governor Jim Douglas (R) set out barricades to officially close the Richmond Street Bridge to traffic in Richmond, VT today. Such construction doesn’t usually draw this much attention, but the $2 million project is the first one in the state to put stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to work.

This project is the first segment of $126 million that will be pumped into transportation projects over the next year.

“Under the rules of the stimulus, we have to obligate half the money within 120 days,” Transportation Secretary David Dill said. “We’re advancing projects that were already in the queue, and that list is in front of the legislature now.”

Eleven projects have finished or nearly finished the bidding process. Among them are plans for improving or replacing bridges in Barre, Brownington, and East Montpelier, and paving roads in Colchester, Rockingham and Royalton.

Together, the 11 projects will use $33.6 million in federal stimulus funding.

Another 20 projects are already scheduled to go out to bid. For a full list of the proposed projects for the first phase of stimulus funding see Vermont under State-by-State Spending in our sidebar.

“When you look at the poor condition of the infrastructure in terms of bridges and paving, you really can’t go wrong in picking projects,” Dill said. “We have lots of places to put the places wisely, create jobs, and improve our infrastructure. This money is not going to waste.”

Dill says there are still more needs than funds, but this list is a solid start.

“You’ve got to keep in mind it’s only temporary, it’s not going to fix all our infrastructure,” he said. “We’re working with our legislature to create a bonding package as well. With the stimulus money first, followed by a bonding package, and hopefully a substantive new transportation fund authorization bill from the Congress within year or two, I’m hoping we’ve turned a corner on transportation infrastructure.”

Richmond officials are excited to be first, but local business owners say they’re worried about the impact of the bridge’s closure. They’re hoping for some stimulus of their own to help encourage customers to stay.

Town officials have applied for a $50,000 rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide marketing support to remind people that even though the bridge is closed, the town is still open for business.

Frank Stewart, owner of the Richmond Victoria Inn, said his business was down 29 percent when the bridge closed for a month last year.

According to Chris Williams, bridge project manager, a new bridge will eliminate this problem because all new steel will be galvanized, won’t corrode as quickly and will require a lot less maintenance.

New Jersey Announces Economic Recovery Website

New Jerseyeans will now be able to monitor their state’s distribution and spending of federal stimulus dollars on a new site announced by Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) today.

The site, http://www.recovery.nj.gov/, outlines New Jersey’s estimated $17.5 billion in total benefits over the next three years from the $787 billion federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Approximately $10 billion of New Jersey’s allocation is for services, assistance and infrastructure investment, and the remaining $7.3 billion will be in the form of tax cuts.

The New Jersey Recovery Accountability Task Force, which Corzine announced the creation of last week, will oversee the distribution of the state’s federal stimulus funds.

“Transparency and accountability are of utmost importance in the allocation of these funds, and to ensure they will be spent for their intended purpose: to create jobs, bolster our infrastructure and assist residents in need,” Corzine said. “By giving individuals, businesses and communities access to how these funds are spent and what programs are available, we will optimize this opportunity to quickly emerge from the global recession.”

The task force will be co-chaired by Ed McBride, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, and State Comptroller Matt Boxer. The other members include:

• Medicaid Inspector General Mark Anderson
• Inspector General Mary Jane Cooper
• Chief Technology Officer Adel Ebeid
• Former State Auditor Richard Fair
• New Jersey Director of Office of Management & Budget Charlene Holzbaur
• Former New Jersey OMB Director Richard Keevey
• Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Diane Legreide
• Former U.S. OMB official David Sandahl

Note: New Jersey has now been added to the sidebar under State-by-State Spending

Greg Sitek

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