Making Stimulus Money Stretch

The stimulus money will fund a number of road projects in the region. But as contracts for those projects are filled, local officials are realizing there may be extra money. The Houston–Galveston Area Council is putting out a call for new projects to be funded if it all works out. Laurie Johnson reports.

Think of it as a giant road project wishlist with a bunch of questions marks.

H-GAC directors don't know how much money, if any, will be left over to use on extra projects.

But Pat Waskowiak, the transportation program manager, says they want to be ready with a list of contingency projects just in case.

"Potentially there's extra money to work with, we have no idea how much that would be right now or if it's even available. But what we want to do is again take advantage of any opportunity to use additional money on roadway projects throughout the region and to try to target some of those dollars to what otherwise would be project costs assumed by local governments."

Basically, they want cities and counties in the region to submit proposals for road improvements. Projects like road repaving, asphalt repair and other maintenance and upkeep issues are what they're looking for.

"For example in the City of Houston, if the city wanted to repair potholes or cracks in the pavement on Richmond Avenue, then the city would be able to take advantage of some of this funding to do those kinds of routine maintenance activities that really are very costly for a city because it has so many roads that it has to repair on a regular basis."

All this extra money that may or may not be out there is actually because of the recession. Contracts are coming in at costs much lower than projected. In fact, Waskowiak says they've been able to save as much as 20 percent on some projects.

"We are seeing again projects coming in at less than we anticipated the cost being and we're trying to use those dollars. The goal is to use every penny that's available to the region, to the state and use it as quickly as possible."

At the end of July, the H-GAC will figure out exactly how much money is available.

In the meantime, the already approved stimulus projects move forward. Those include building direct connectors between the Beltway 8 North and 59 North, as well as a reconstruction of I-10 just north of downtown.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...