Executive Council will get ball rolling on stimulus money

CONCORD – The Executive Council will play the role of state bank Wednesday when it will be asked to accept federal stimulus money and then spend $159 million.

Gov. John Lynch and the White House had previously announced the state would receive $135.7 million for highway work and $23.2 million to weatherize homes for low-income families.

The council is expected to approve the first highway project with all stimulus dollars, a $7.8 million rehab of pavement on Route 101 from Epping to Exeter.

Transportation Commissioner George Campbell said approval is needed quickly if the state is to meet the federal standard that 50 percent of highway stimulus money be under contract by mid-June.

The DOT’s plan is to award another $123 million of work later this year for municipal highway/bridge work and other federally financed road projects. Progress on these jobs early on can be used in a small part to meet that 50 percent stimulus threshold, Campbell added (see related chart).

Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation gears up for its own spring spending season with contract awards totaling another $45 million for road paving and reconstruction work with other federal grants and state gasoline tax dollars. Nearly half of that money will be spent widening and rebuilding an exit on the Spaulding Turnpike in Rochester.

Few of the planned projects paid for with stimulus money or others turnpike and federal funds are on roads running through the Nashua area. The closest are the widening of the F.E. Everett for the new Manchester airport access road and the repaving of a section of Route 123 going through the town of Sharon.

The October 2007 increase in tolls financed the turnpike work. Some of those projects were well under way, including the replacement of the Merrill’s Marauder Bridge on the F.E. Everett Turnpike in Merrimack.

Last week, an overflow crowd attended a one-day job fair in Concord sponsored by paving contractor Pike Industries of Belmont.

The council on Wednesday will take up DOT recommendations to award the firm $17.8 million worth of work, nearly half of that for Route 101 paving project and six smaller ones.

On Wednesday afternoon, a director of the Council of State Governments will give a public briefing on the federal stimulus law in Representatives Hall of the State House.

The presentation of Chris Whatley can be seen in live streaming video at the House Web site, www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/default.htm