Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Transportation officials said Thursday that Nevada is the third state obligate all of its transportation funds from the federal stimulus act — a month before deadline.
Projects in Nevada received more than $270 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. More than $200 million went to the Nevada Department of Transportation, which used about $120 million for projects in Clark County.
In addition, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada received more than $33 million for transit projects.
Transportation department Director Susan Martinovich and commission General Manager Jacob Snow held a press conference Thursday in the middle of Casino Center Boulevard in downtown Las Vegas to show off some of the projects paid for with the stimulus funds.
They said all of the state’s funds were obligated to projects by the end of January, well ahead of the March 2 deadline and behind only Maine and Wyoming.
The RTC is using some of the funds to build the new Bonneville Transit Center downtown and to start the new ACE Xpress rapid bus system, which is expected to begin service in March.
While crews worked on the transit center, Snow and Martinovich stood in the dedicated bus lanes on Casino Center.
“This project has really transformed this part of the community,” Snow said. “And that’s what the stimulus projects are all about, is building community, building quality of life. It’s not just growth, but it’s good, quality growth.”
Nevada has come under fire for being among the last states use its stimulus funds to actually start projects, but Martinovich said that was because of the types of projects the state chose. Thursday’s announcement shows Nevada is on the right track, she said.
“We could have chosen to put it all to one or two big projects, but we made the commitment to distribute it to a lot of different projects statewide,” Martinovich said.
“Other states put a lot of money to design. We put it all into construction, all into a product,” she said. “Other states put it a lot on the state system with big projects. We went deeper into our roadway system than other states did, so they were able to get those obligated quicker.”
By splitting the money into more than 70 small projects and giving a lot of it to local governments for roadwork, the state made better use of the money, she said. More projects, even if they are smaller, mean more companies are put to work in different places.
“Every county in the state of Nevada has a project in it. That’s great for the economy of those small, very rural counties,” Martinovich said.
It usually takes the local governments longer, however, to go through the federal approval process than it takes the state for bigger projects, she said.
“I think it was still the right approach,” she said.
Snow said that many of the road projects under way in the Las Vegas Valley would not have been possible without the stimulus.
“We were getting these projects ready to go and the economy just tanked, and we had to cut back on roadway projects. We had to cut back on transit projects,” he said. “There’s no way we could have done these projects in today’s economy without the stimulus bill. No way. Borrow, beg or steal, we couldn’t have done it.”