- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O’Malley outlined the first wave of transportation projects arising from federal economic recovery money Wednesday, saying the funds will provide “urgently needed” jobs for highway resurfacing, bridge improvements and other programs statewide.

Maryland will receive $610 million for transportation projects as part of the economic stimulus bill signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday. The first phase includes $365 million in highway and transit projects. Overall, the O’Malley administration estimates the federal infusion will create 17,500 jobs.

“It is the first of many economic recovery projects that we will consider in the days ahead,” O’Malley said. “One cautionary note about all of these: There is not a sort of Golden Gate Bridge or Bay Bridge among them.”

Although a large-scale marquee project isn’t planned, O’Malley emphasized that the work will be spread throughout the state.

“They are needed throughout the state,” O’Malley said. “Many of them are bridge maintenance, bridge replacements, resurfacing, so that we don’t have to reconstruct three years from now because we did not have the money today to resurface.”

Among the project highlights in the first phase:

• $223 million for state highway projects, including $146 million for road resurfacing.

• $65 million for 100 hybrid buses and equipment.

• $10 million for MARC Station and parking upgrades.

The projects also will bring new sidewalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and safety guardrails on highways. Work from the first phase is expected to bring an estimated 10,000 jobs, the O’Malley administration estimates.

O’Malley said Maryland residents can expect to see people at work on the projects within the next 30 to 45 days.

“These are investments in our future and they will also preserve and create jobs today,” O’Malley said at a meeting of the Board of Public Works, which approved a $2.9 million contract Wednesday for work at the Laurel MARC station.

State officials also plan to seek more money available through federal discretionary programs, including grants that could be used at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum.

The governor said state officials have been working with companies ready to do the work.

“Many of them are holding on by their fingernails and just feeling like they’re living day to day, postponing tough decisions about laying people off, if they haven’t already; so we want to let them know that work is on the way,” the governor said.

Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari said it’s clear contractors are hungry. He described a recent bid issued by the State Highway Administration that attracted 15 bidders, instead of the usual three or four.

“In discussions with industry, it’s clear that they’re sharpening their pencils,” Porcari told the board. “They know what’s at work here.”

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