Chattanooga: Stimulus road funding starts flowing

Chattanooga: Stimulus road funding starts flowing

March 5th, 2009 by Matt Wilson in Local Regional News

Chattanooga's Metropolitan Planning Organization will get about $10.6 million in federal stimulus money for transportation projects, some of which comes out of Georgia's funding pot, records released this week show.

Julie Oaks, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said federal officials determined how much each city in the state would receive.

"That came straight from the federal government," she said. "It does not come through TDOT."

Staff Photo by Tim Barber In Dalton, traffic snarls at the intersection of Cleveland Highway and U. S. Highway 41 during afternoon rush. The Georgia Department of Transportation and Whitfield County government are looking into using SLPOST monies to improve congestion at the crossroads.

Staff Photo by Tim Barber In Dalton, traffic snarls...

Doug Hecox, spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration, said Congress determined how the money would be distributed. He said the complex funding formula takes population, geography, expected population and the types of traffic that travels certain roads into consideration, among other factors.

Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus bill last month.

Ms. Oaks said funding for metropolitan areas with more than 200,000 people - Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis in Tennessee - will go straight through planning organizations. Funding for smaller areas will come through TDOT, she said.

Metropolitan planning organizations get funding, in part, based on how much the state's total appropriation is, Mr. Hecox said.

Chattanooga will get about $8.4 million in Tennessee funding and about $2.2 million in Georgia funding, according to the federal Web site, which tracks stimulus spending.

Melissa Taylor, director of transportation planning for the Chattanooga and North Georgia planning organization, said those two pots of money must stay separate. Officials are working on finalizing their project list to submit to TDOT and Georgia's Transportation Department so work can start, she said.

Projects include streetscaping, sidewalks, resurfacing and installing safety measures such as guard rails.

While planning organizations have a year to plan out how to spend their stimulus money, TDOT has only 120 days, Ms. Oaks said, and she predicted that all the department's projects should be going by then.

"We'll have it all under contract by June," she said.

The largest portion of the states' stimulus money for transportation - $383.7 million in Tennessee, $624.2 million in Georgia - is discretionary money that transportation departments can use on projects throughout the state. In total, Tennessee will receive $572.7 million and Georgia will get $931.5 in stimulus funding for transportation.

Erica Fatima, spokeswoman for GDOT, said if state officials chose to spend any additional funds in the Chattanooga area, metropolitan planning organization officials must approve the project.

Another portion, called "mandatory transportation" funding, is for projects such as historic preservation, pedestrian and bike trails and environmental projects.

Also this week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released figures of how much cities will be receiving in community block grant funds. According to documents, Chattanooga will get $465,678; Cleveland, Tenn., will receive $89,967, and Dalton, Ga., will get $109,501.