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How will Oklahoma use its stimulus money?

Oklahoma City_It is the largest monthly contract award for roads and bridges in Oklahoma's history. Friday, state officials unveiled plans on how Oklahoma will spend its 250-million dollar portion of the President's economic stimulus package for road and bridge repairs. 7NEWS has learned 6 of the 40 proposed projects will happen in southwest Oklahoma.

The state's transportation director says the work could begin in about 45 days.

The bidding process got underway earlier this month and the awards are set be to contracted out on Monday.

Governor Brad Henry says the mission is two-fold. "Oklahoma construction companies will create many short term jobs and in the long term will lay the foundation for a stronger economy through a safe and efficient transportation network."

The projects are not new. They're a part of ODOT's 8 year plan, only now the state has money to fund them sooner. They include over 2-million dollars in repairs and approach work to the Beaver Creek Bridge on Highway Seven in Eastern Comanche County, as well as 5-million dollars for the Bois D'Arc interchange off the Duncan bypass. Highway 62 in Tillman and Jackson counties is scheduled for some paving work, as is Highway 183 south of Frederick.

"By doing this is will create holes and gaps in the eight year plans, when we re-balance, we'll be able to move other construction projects forward as well as add projects to the plan," said Gary Ridley of ODOT.

But at least one state lawmaker says Oklahoma should give the stimulus money back to the federal government because it comes with too many mandates and strings attached. Governor Henry disagrees. "I would much rather see us building our infrastructure, our roads and bridges here in Oklahoma, with these stimulus dollars than having Texas for instance build roads and bridges with money that should have come to Oklahoma."

The Governor says he's appointed the state's auditor to serve as the watchdog for Oklahoma's stimulus expenditures. In addition, a web site will be created through the office of state finance to track stimulus funds so taxpayers will be able to see how the money is spent.

So how many jobs will be created by the 250-million dollars worth of road projects? ODOT's director estimates about 8-thousand to 85-hundred.

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