Counties Create Wish Lists of Road Projects

Thu December 18, 2008 - Midwest Edition
CEG



WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (AP) Two northeast Ohio counties assembled wish lists of infrastructure projects that officials plan to implement if given a portion of a proposed $500 billion federal economic stimulus package.

Officials say the lists detailing road and transportation projects in Lake and Geauga counties will help officials enact new economic initiatives as quickly as possible if a proposed bailout bill passes.

President-elect Barack Obama has called for a massive economic recovery bill to generate 2.5 million jobs over his first two years in office. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has vowed to have a package ready on Inauguration Day for Obama’s signature.

The measure, which could total $500 billion, would bankroll big public works projects to create jobs, provide aid to states to help with Medicaid costs, and provide money toward renewable energy development.

The lists were announced when the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency’s governing board met on Dec. 12 to vote on a resolution urging Congress to distribute bailout funding fairly, with special priority given to states with high unemployment.

The agency specializes in recommending which projects should be funded by federal and state agencies, including those for road construction, transportation and the environment. It wrote in a statement that the region’s urgent infrastructure needs include highways, bridges, transit operations, vehicle replacements and water-pollution abatement controls.

Infrastructure projects could account for a potential $137 billion of the $500 billion proposed nationally in a federal bill that could be passed into law next month.

“Many states are already jockeying for advantage,” NOACA Executive Director Howard R. Maier said. “NOACA is concerned that Ohio could lose out on its fair share of funding if the process is determined hastily and is highly politicized.”

The lists will help officials enact economic initiatives as quickly as possible, said Bruce Landeg, chief deputy to Lake County Engineer James Gills.

“The idea is to generate jobs in time frames,” Landeg said. “If the objective is economic stimulus, we want to be ready as soon as possible.”

Obama said in his weekly radio address that he wants to create the largest public works project since the building of the federal highway system in the 1950s — a program focused on repairing roads and schools. The outlines of the plan come a day after the Labor Department announced that employers cut 533,000 jobs in November, the most in 34 years.