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Utah leads in spending highway stimulus funds

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah leads all states when it comes to the percent of money spent on stimulus transportation projects.

According to a report by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Utah has managed to spend 84.4 percent — or $180.2 million — of its $213.5 million allocation from the federal government's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Utah and just three other states — Wyoming, Maine and New Hampshire — are the only states that have succeeded in programming 100 percent of their allocated money toward projects. Each is awaiting completion of those projects before they can submit a claim to the federal government for reimbursement for the rest.

In 2009, Utah was second in spending, behind Wyoming.

For Carlos Braceras, deputy director of the Utah Department of Transportation, it's not a surprise that Utah is now leading the country.

As the stimulus bill was rolling out, UDOT and state leaders planned projects according to the rules set up by the federal government, he said.

"We have a governor and Legislature who are very focused on the efficient delivery of government services," Braceras said.

According to the committee's report, 89 of 125 projects put out to bid have been completed in Utah.

Braceras said Utahns might not notice all of the projects UDOT completed with stimulus money, though they were good pavement and bridge-preservation projects that extend the lives of roads and bridges.

But a few projects will be very noticeable, he said, noting the Syracuse road-widening project, from 1000 West to 2000 West, and the construction of the Long Valley bridge, which had been wiped out by flooding in southern Utah.

Though $213 million is a small part of UDOT's $3 billion construction budget, that money was put to use to do much-needed projects, Braceras said.

The report states that 3,817 jobs, with a total payroll of nearly $18 million, were created or saved between February 2009 and February 2010.

Nationally, $11.7 billion has been spent out of the projected $26.4 billion for highway projects. More than 216,500 jobs in the U.S. were created or saved in the first year, with 62,814 in the current year.

The payroll for those jobs is nearly $2.4 billion.

e-mail: jdougherty@desnews.com

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