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TxDOT asks to be stimulated

TxDOT to Congress: Stimulate me, baby!

Texas transportation officials have sent the state’s congressional delegation a $6.2 billion list of ready-to-go road projects on the chance a stimulus package is approved, including nearly $677 million for the Houston area.

Critics, however, are questioning whether the list, which is heavy on routine maintenance, would be the best use of an infusion of money, while experts debate how much government should do.

“What I want us to do is … not act like we’re getting a big ol’ Christmas gift where the only issue is the money. We need to be sure we’re going to spend any money well,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee vice-chairman.

Watson said officials should examine each proposed project to see what sort of economic benefit it would bring, whether the project is sustainable and how federal money could be leveraged. He said the Texas Department of Transportation’s list includes older projects, some of which “may be old for a reason.”

Projects in the Houston district, which includes Harris and nearby counties, range from road repairs to installation of new traffic signals to landscape development to adding lanes to some stretches of road.

You can read the list of ready-to-go projects here (PDF). I’m with Sen. Watson: While these are the sorts of project you generally want to be doing as economic stimuli, there’s still the wee matter of TxDOT’s ability to keep track of its money. A little oversight couldn’t hurt is all I’m saying.

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