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Stimulus money to fund road projects

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By Chris Sardelli

With the S.C. Department of Transportation receiving more than $400 million in federal stimulus funding, several Lancaster County roads are now slated for much-needed resurfacing.

But the fate of other county road projects is still undecided.

County Administrator Steve Willis said three road projects have received money from the stimulus bill approved by Congress last month.

The money will allow for the roads to be repaved.

The projects include Hampton Street in Kershaw (from North Matson Street to South Matson Street), Springdale Road (from S.C. 200 to Meeting Street) and U.S. 521 Business (from Carolina Christian Academy to North Main Street, which includes Market Street and a segment of Barr Street).

Willis said the U.S. 521 project alone will receive nearly                            

$2.5 million in funding.

And although the projects have been approved, Willis said he isn’t sure when the money for them will be released.

In total, South Carolina will receive $463 million from the Economic Recovery Act.

Sarah Nuckles, SCDOT commissioner for the 5th Congressional District, said $100 million of the funding has already been allocated for road resurfacing.

She said the money was divided up among every county in the state, based on their respective amounts of federal roads. Another $14 million has been set aside for sidewalks across the state.

“We had hoped we could distribute it more to local roads, but the government is dictating how this goes,” Nuckles said. “We would rather have seen the money go for roads and bridges.”

Other than the resurfacing, Nuckles said no other projects have been decided. She will be meeting soon with other SCDOT commissioners to prioritize other projects.

“I want to evenly distribute money across the state,” Nuckles said. “This will then help to create jobs across the state.”

Nuckles said SCDOT is required to meet two important deadlines to use the stimulus funding.

The first deadline, which Nuckles said her office has been racing to meet, is 120 days from the date the stimulus bill was signed on Feb. 17.

Half of the stimulus funding must be obligated by that date. Nuckles said this money would be used for resurfacing, safety projects and for “shovel-ready” projects.

Shovel-ready projects are those that have already completed important environmental and right-of-way studies, and can immediately begin work.

Projects such as the proposed Dave Lyle Boulevard extension into Lancaster County are not considered shovel ready because they have not completed these studies. They do not qualify for the stimulus funds.

Other projects, such as a proposed widening of S.C. 160, could possibly qualify for the funds.

A second deadline, which expires 360 days after the signing of the stimulus bill, will be for remaining road projects.

The Catawba Regional Council of Governments, like other planning organizations in the state, will help to decide how to allocate the remaining funds.

With only $250 million left after the first portion of stimulus money is allocated, and a list of state road projects that total over $1 billion, Nuckles said there won’t be enough funding to cover everything.

“It’s like a teaspoon of butter spread over five biscuits. None will have the full flavor and none will taste that good, ” Nuckles said. “The list is far bigger than what we can do. Just because we have all these projects doesn’t mean we have enough money.”

Nuckles said she was disappointed that infrastructure funding made up only 5 percent of the stimulus bill. She had hoped for more, especially because roads and infrastructure are a good draw for bringing new businesses to counties in the state.

“I’m glad we’ve got this (stimulus money), but it’s not the huge bonanza everyone thinks it is,” she said.

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416