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State OKs using federal stimulus funds for 8 Pima highway projects

PHOENIX – The state Transportation Board gave the green light Tuesday to using federal stimulus money for highway projects in Maricopa and Pima counties and set the stage for an equal amount of work across the rest of the state.

The board approved Arizona Department of Transportation lists of five projects in Maricopa County, including construction of new lanes on Interstate 10 west of Phoenix and Interstate 17 near Anthem, and of eight projects in Pima County. Those include work on Interstates 10 and 19 and state Route 86 west of Tucson.

The action on ADOT’s lists of recommended projects came after the board reaffirmed an earlier decision to spend half of the state’s $350 million in Maricopa and Pima counties and half in the other 13 counties.

Under that starting point, Maricopa County would be allowed approximately $130 million and Pima County roughly $45 million. Approximately $175 million would be divvied up among projects in the other counties.

Statewide, 55 percent of the total spending would be for construction to add or expand roadways, 29 percent would be for repaving and “preservation” work and 16 percent for rehabilitation and replacement projects.

A 27-project list for the other 13 counties also was endorsed, but board members specifically left the door open to reconsider its project rankings.

If that project list holds up, county-by-county allotments would include $6.6 million for work in Yavapai County, $16.5 million in Cochise County, $30 million in Pinal County, $20 million in Coconino County, $15 million in Mohave County and $11.5 million in Yuma County.

The allocations could change because ADOT officials and board members plan to keep evaluating additional projects in all three regions in the running for possible stimulus funding in case approved projects are dropped or if the state gets more federal dollars.

One federally mandated criteria causing some uncertainty for state officials is a requirement to consider giving priority to “economically depressed areas,” a designation that for now includes every county but Coconino, Maricopa and Pima, said ADOT Director John Halikowski.

“While we understand that Maricopa County is the center of the universe for Arizona, it’s not the center of the universe for rural Arizona,” said Santa Cruz County Supervisor Manuel “Manny” Ruis, one of many local officials who urged the board to leave the 50-50 split unchanged.

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