The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission voted in Springfield Thursday to approve $577 million in projects to be funded by the federal economic stimulus.

The 87 approved projects total more than the $525 million the Missouri Department of Transportation has to spend - an intentional move by the department.

"Our project bids have been coming in 10 percent to 15 percent under budget," MoDOT Director Pete Rahn said in a news release. "We built an extra 10 percent into the project list to make sure we could go after funds that other states don't spend. Even if those funds don't become available, we're committed to delivering every project on the list."

In selecting the projects, the federal stimulus plan required that MoDOT give consideration to those that could be completed within three years and those that would maximize job creation and economic benefit, the release said. Projects also were considered if they were in economically distressed areas, and a certain amount of the money was required to go toward maintaining the state's existing highway system.

The projects are expected to directly or indirectly support 22,000 jobs, according to the release.

Among the Greene County projects are the widening to six lanes of U.S. Highway 65 from Interstate 44 and U.S. Highway 60, and interchange improvements at Highway 60 and National Avenue.

Regulations of the stimulus act require that 50 percent of the stimulus funds be obligated by June 30, and all money must be obligated by March 2, 2010. With yesterday's approval, MoDOT will move forward on putting projects out for bids - 37 projects totaling $91 million are already under way.
See Springfield Business Journal's cover story on Monday for a look at what local contractors are doing to cash in on stimulus funds.