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N.D. spends $383M on construction projects

BISMARCK (AP) -- North Dakota transportation officials say it has been a good year to catch up on highway projects with federal stimulus money, but are worried about future funding from Washington.

State Transportation Director Francis Ziegler told a legislative committee Tuesday that the state has spent a record $383 million this year on about 290 highway construction projects. About $300 million was spent on construction last year, he said.

"We can spend a million dollars a day pretty easily," Ziegler said.

The system has been bolstered by about $93 million in federal stimulus money for road and bridge projects. About $74 million in stimulus projects will be carried over to next year, Ziegler said.

"That should really help the economy and get some of these roads back in shape," said Sen. David O'Connell, D-Lansford, chairman of the public safety and transportation committee. "We're happy to see that a lot of money is going directly to the contractors."

The state also is working with counties and cities on hundreds of repair projects as the result of spring flooding. That includes several large jobs in the Devils Lake area: $24 million on state Highway 20 at Acorn Ridge, $25 million on state Highway 20 at Spring Lake, and $28 million on raising four roads.

"Our maintenance folks have been as busy as they ever have," Ziegler said. "The winter was ugly and the spring was just as ugly."

It costs $9,200 per mile per year to keep up the state's roads, Ziegler said.

Ziegler warned lawmakers that the state may soon be scrambling for federal dollars. He said the proposed transportation bill in Congress would hurt rural states because it focuses on easing congestion in large cities, including construction of light rail systems.

North Dakota would lose 50 percent of its funding under the new plan, Ziegler said.

"We have to design for the most extremes of any other state," he said. "Winter into spring does a lot of damage to our system."