By Wally Kennedy

Missouri could get $693 million for highway projects in the economic-stimulus package under consideration in Congress.

The $825 billion package, which is to be completed by Presidents Day on Feb. 16, includes $30 billion for highway projects for the states. Of that amount, $693 million, or 2 percent, would come to Missouri.

During a transportation summit Monday in Joplin, Pete Rahn, head of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said $133 million of that amount would go directly to highway projects in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, the state’s most populous metro areas.

The remaining $560 million would go to MoDOT for use across the state.

Rahn said the political rhetoric associated with the stimulus package would suggest that more money would be expected for infrastructure projects that would create jobs than actually will be available. Rahn, who said the state will use the federal investment in highways wisely, was hopeful that more money would be earmarked in the package for highway jobs.

“This is not a massive investment in highways and bridges as some might think it is, based on the rhetoric,” he said. “This is 70 percent of our annual appropriation from the federal government.

“The $30 billion is 3.6 percent of the $825 billion stimulus package. We face a bigger problem than 3.6 percent.”

Steve McIntosh, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said the stimulus package includes money for other infrastructure projects not related to highways. Those projects, as an example, might be sewer and water projects, he said.

Missouri is ready to go forward with 34 highway projects — including two in the southwest corner of the state — when Congress approves the stimulus package.

Among the projects are:

A $27 million upgrade of interchanges in Barton and Bates counties as part of the upgrade of U.S. Highway 71 into Interstate 49. The upgrades have been endorsed by several businesses and communities, such as Jasper, Lamar and Nevada, along the route. The proposed interchanges are at Missouri Highway 52 (Bates County), Missouri Highway 126 (Barton County), and routes DD/EE and V/C north of Lamar.

A $23 million project for alternate and intermittent passing lanes on U.S. Highway 60 from east of Chappell Drive in Monett to Kansas Avenue in Republic.

From $30 million to $60 million in work on an estimated 700 to 1,400 miles of lettered routes around the state.

Four other projects — including one in Southwest Missouri — have been identified for work if additional money is made available. One of those is the six-mile Bella Vista bypass from Pineville to the Arkansas state line, the projected cost of which is $74 million.

Seventeen of the projects already are included in the state’s five-year construction program and would be accelerated by up to four years.

MoDOT projects that the additional highway money would create about 14,000 jobs in the state and have an economic impact valued at $2.4 billion.

Joplin visit

Pete Rahn, head of the Missouri Department of Transportation, spoke during a transportation meeting at the Butcher’s Block Banquet Center called by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and other chamber offices in the region. Also speaking were representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas Department of Transportation.

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