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Infrastructure investment plan: Funds may go to local projects

LAWRENCEVILLE - After a year of bad news regarding money for transportation improvements, officials hope Barack Obama's proposed infrastructure investment plan will bring back the cash to get traffic moving in Georgia.

The infrastructure plan, which would have to be approved by Congress, could bring $3.4 billion in transportation investment in the state that has been struggling to fund a more than $7 billion funding gap, officials said last week.

The money could bring new life to projects to widen the Ga. Highway 324 bridge over Interstate 85 and McGinnis Ferry Road over the Chattahoochee River, as well as fund a proposed McGinnis Ferry extension and improvements to Lawrenceville Highway and Ga. Highway 20, Gwinnett Transportation Deputy Director Alan Chapman said.

The projects, which total about $83 million, were in flux as the state has been going through a project prioritization process because of funding issues.

"It would eliminate a lot of that uncertainty," Chapman said. "These are real important projects to us. ... They provide a lot of congestion relief and safety improvement."

The State Transportation Board passed a resolution Thursday in support of the stimulus package, which would likely go to projects where construction could begin quickly. Gov. Sonny Perdue talked last week about making transportation investment a priority, saying he would put forward "an aggressive bond package" to fund upgrades.

Georgia DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said the state list for the federal program could include a lot of maintenance and rehab projects. DOT officials also have outlined transit, commuter rail and aviation projects and more than $1 billion in possible funding for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

"That would make a difference," Pope said, referring to a U.S. DOT statistic that every $1.25 billion in highway investment produces 35,000 jobs. On top of the construction workers, it also means more work for materials manufacturers and even restaurants from workers taking lunch breaks. "There is a lot pumped into the local economy from a road project."