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U.S. funds sought for roads, bridges

Nearly 20 road and bridge projects costing $20 million in Erie and Niagara counties were submitted Monday for federal funding under the economic stimulus legislation signed last week by President Obama.

The fast-track list includes replacement of the deteriorating ramps connecting the Youngmann Highway and the Niagara Thruway in the Town of Tonawanda, replacement of retaining walls along the Kensington Expressway in Buffalo and upgrading Maple Road from Niagara Falls Boulevard to Flint Road in Amherst.

Before the stimulus package was enacted, these and the other top-priority projects in the Buffalo Niagara region were expected to be delayed by a drop in gasoline tax revenues that go to the federal highway trust fund, said Timothy Trabold, principal analyst with the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council.

The council not only approved the top 19 "shovel-ready" plans but 35 more projects valued at $35 million that it considers "potentially eligible" for stimulus funding. The supplemental agenda includes $25.5 million for the purchase of buses and replacement of Metro Rail tracks by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Western New York's to-do list was among 13 sent to the state by regional transportation groups for funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Gov. David A. Paterson said projects could be put to bid as early as March 5, "creating thousands of jobs in upstate New York."

Claiming there is "a serious need" for federal infrastructure investment in the state, Paterson said the initial lists represent "just a small number of the opportunities that will be funded with economic recovery dollars."

"This will . . . create jobs across the state at a time when New York is facing widespread unemployment," he said.

Some projects would be fully paid for with stimulus dollars while others would also use money budgeted by state or local agencies. For instance, $2 million in federal funds will be needed for the Youngmann Highway-Niagara Thruway ramp work, for which the state Department of Transportation has already earmarked $17 million.


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