I was reading the St. Pete Times when I came across an article about Pasco County and their stimulus wish list of road projects. Seems the hopes and dreams of local governments to survive the economic downturn with road projects paid for with federal stimulus money may be nothing more than pie in the sky as tighter federal requirements on what kinds of projects are eligible, coupled with the way Florida plans to divvy up its share of the money, have narrowed the possibilities.
For starters, Florida Department of Transportation officials and regional planners are setting priorities based on Florida receiving about $1.5 billion for road projects statewide. The limited pot of dollars isn’t the only problem. The feds are also considering various restrictions on what kinds of projects would be eligible according to a Pasco County employee quoted in the article.
For instance, the project may have to be a major road, in compliance with environmental regulations and with designs and permits in hand. The projects may have to start by July and be finished within three years. Projects also are expected to meet federal requirements for union-based, higher wages, causing more grumbles from county officials. Pasco County’s Budget director suggested non-union companies would shy away from bidding, and costs could go up by a fifth.
Guess we’ll have to wait for Congress to resolve the differences in the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bill before we really know how much money is coming to Florida. In the meantime, Florida transportation officials plan to discuss options Friday in a conference.