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Stimulus funds: $80.5M set for county

LAWRENCEVILLE - Transportation officials set aside $80.5 million in federal stimulus funds for Gwinnett County projects, but the county's ineligible status may delay the beginning of the projects.

Stimulus funds have been tapped for the widening of the Ga. Highway 324 bridge over Interstate 85 and a planned extension to McGinnis Ferry Road, also with the bridge over the interstate.

While the projects are "shovel ready," as President Barack Obama ordered in the creation of the stimulus plan, state DOT spokesman David Spear said he isn't clear if the county's loss of qualified local government status will affect the funds.

He said state officials are researching the issue. But many of the projects, including the widening of Ga. Highway 20 in Loganville, are being conducted by the state agency, so the county's eligibility may not matter.

A project on Sugarloaf Parkway for signal timing and automated traffic management is being conducted through the Atlanta Regional Commission. He said the eligibility question is less clear there.

Across Georgia, the State Transportation Board Thursday approved 135 economic stimulus projects valued at $512 million.

Other Gwinnett projects approved for the stimulus funds include intersection improvements on U.S. Highway 29 at Pleasant Hill and Beaver Ruin Roads and a traffic management system on Buford Highway.

According to federal eligibility requirements, the funds must be obligated by June 17.

County transportation officials were not available for comment late Thursday.

"This is a good day ... an important day," Transportation Board Chairman Bill Kuhlke Jr. said. "Very soon now, contractors across the state will begin putting Georgians back to work. And the work they'll be doing will be important maintenance and improvements to our transportation infrastructure."

While officials have identified $2 billion worth of "shovel-ready" projects, the state will receive about $932 million highway system stimulus funds, the remainder of which will be allotted later this year. Georgia is also set to receive $144 million for public transit and is eligible for additional highway, rail and aviation grants.