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Federal stimulus funds for roads, bridges, transportation released last week

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By Angye Morrison

Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced last Thursday the release of $8.4 billion in federal stimulus dollars for public transportation nationwide.

“All over the country, resources are being put to work not only creating jobs now, but also investing in the future. A future that strengthens our transit system, makes us more energy efficient and increases safety,” said Biden. “With this recovery package, we will be creating jobs, saving jobs and putting money in people’s pockets. And with these resources, we’ll not only be rebuilding roads and bridges and schools, we’ll be rebuilding America.”

"Investments in public transportation put people to work, but they also get people to work in a way that moves us towards our long term goals of energy security and a better quality of life," added LaHood. "That is why transit funding was included in the (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) and why we think it is a key part of America's transportation future."

Florida will receive $316,196,713.

President Barack Obama also announced March 2 the release of $155 million in ARRA funds to support 126 new health centers, which will provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care services for those in need, including those without health insurance.

"We have acted quickly to put Recovery Act dollars to good use in communities across America," said Obama. "The construction and expansion of health centers will create thousands of new jobs, help provide health care to an estimated 750,000 Americans across the country who wouldn't have access to care without these centers, and take another step toward an affordable, accessible health care system."

The creation of the new centers will mean 5,500 jobs. Florida will receive $10.107,586 for an estimated 35,720 patients and 265 new jobs.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated almost 75 percent of its federal stimulus dollars, a total of $10.1 billion. The agency will receive a total of $13.61 billion for its projects and programs.

The allocation of the remaining 25 percent will be determined at a later date.

LaHood, together with President Obama, also announced that $27 billion in ARRA funds are already on the way to states to repair roads and bridges. How these funds are allocated will be determined by state leaders. Each state’s leadership has 120 days to assign the funds to specific projects, and if states don’t use it, they will lose it.

The $292.65 million in road and bridge dollars for Florida will be divided as follows (in millions): Bonita Springs/Naples, $5.59; Cape Coral, $8.34; Daytona Beach/Port Orange, $6.46; Jacksonville, $22.30; Miami, $124.35; Orlando, $29.26; Palm Bay/Melbourne, $9.94; Pensacola, $8.14; Port St. Lucie, $6.84; Sarasota/Bradenton, $14.14; Tallahassee, $5.16; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, $52.13.

Gov. Charlie Crist has met in recent days with the Federal Stimulus Working Group to discuss the expected stimulus funds, and has encouraged “speedy implementation of guidelines” for distribution.

“As we learn details of how these federal dollars will create jobs and stimulate Florida’s economy, I am committed to making sure that Florida is prepared to use the funds quickly and efficiently to complement our state funding priorities and investments,” said Crist. “We remain focused on directing these dollars toward Florida’s infrastructure, workforce training, educational and Medicaid needs.”

Gadsden County officials gathered with officials from throughout the Big Bend area in February to lay out a plan for anticipated federal stimulus dollars. The proposed plan is a $1.1 billion stimulus package that would, if funded, create 15,931 jobs in the area. The package includes 91 projects in Gadsden County, totaling $183 million and creating 2,324 jobs.

The projects fall into the following categories: school modernization, $2,632,000 and 78 jobs; broadband technology, $3.8 million and 95 jobs; public parks, $4.88 million and 82 jobs; transportation, $54,719,906 and 812 jobs; public housing, $3,125,000 and 48 jobs; water infrastructure, $24,828,200 and 421 jobs; science/research, $15,700,000 and 94 jobs; education/training, $450,000 and 35 jobs; energy, $16,750,000 and 104 jobs; protecting the vulnerable/health, $19, 350,000 and 165 jobs; law enforcement, $28,800,000 and 216 jobs; and public safety, $8,170,000 and 174 jobs.

Specific projects include the construction of a bypass in Quincy at a cost of $35 million, roadway improvements and the construction of bridge access in Chattahoochee at Crawfish Island, road improvements in Midway, water and sewage improvements in Greensboro and Gretna, and a 10,000 square foot addition to the existing municipal building in Havana.

Also proposed is a retrofit of the roofing at Havana Elementary School, a new county jail and additional funding for the renovation of Gadsden Community Hospital.