BROOKSVILLE — If the federal government continues to make money available for fast local road projects, Hernando officials have plenty of ideas of where to spend those bucks.
In fact, some federal stimulus dollars may be available to fix some lime-rock roads, which typically have been out of bounds for state or federal road funds.
On Tuesday, the County Commission awarded contracts for more than $2.8 million in road improvements spread throughout the county.
New projects were added to the list because around the state, many of the federal stimulus road projects are coming in at prices lower than original estimates, and extra dollars are available, officials said.
The county also continues, at the request of the Florida Department of Transportation, to provide priority lists of other roadway improvements in case the DOT has money to spend.
With the commission bid awards Tuesday, work is expected to begin soon on repaving projects on Mariner Boulevard, Yontz Road, Spring Hill Drive and North Avenue, as well as a reconstruction job slated for Citrus Way stretching from Fort Dade Avenue to Centralia Road.
On Tuesday, Hernando public works director Charles Mixson brought forward two more projects off the "bench'' list, a term for projects that didn't make the first cut for funding but are now eligible.
This second batch of projects includes the reconstruction of Spring Lake Highway from Mountainview Boulevard to State Road 50, which carries a price tag of $1.8 million, and the resurfacing of Spring Hill Drive from California Street to U.S. 41, a project expected to cost $977,000.
On the list approved Tuesday by the Metropolitan Planning Organization are two lime-rock road resurfacing and dust control projects ordinarily financed by the county.
Those projects are resurfacing Highfield Road from Grove Road to Arizona Street and resurfacing Drew Street from Oakcrest Circle to Highfield Road. Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he planned to talk to DOT officials about the need to add those projects, which met many of the other criteria to be funded by federal stimulus dollars.
Russell noted that the county has taken some heat from residents for a stimulus project now under way that was pushed strongly by DOT: resurfacing the 20-mile stretch of the Suncoast Trail parallel to Suncoast Parkway through Hernando County.
Russell said he understood that the trail would have needed work soon with or without the influx of federal money and that, because it serves pedestrians, there is more liability connected with keeping it in top condition.
Russell said the state should return the favor by helping out the county with the lime-rock road projects on Highfield and Drew. Both projects could provide needed relief for congested Cortez Boulevard and should get a favorable state review, he said.
That would also help the county's five-year lime-rock road plan, which commissioners also approved at Tuesday's meeting.
Under that plan, roads slated for work this year are Sharon Court, Lewis Lane and August Avenue from Idle-A-While Circle to Madonna Drive, and Batten Road from Hayman Road to Powell Road. Those two projects were expected to cost about $367,000.
Highfield and Drew are on the list for 2011 unless the federal dollars can be used. If stimulus money is approved for them, the other lime-rock roads on the list would move a year closer to completion, Mixson told commissioners.
County officials plan to continue the surface treatment of certain lime-rock roads at about three miles a year for the next five years. Roads are chosen based on type, population density, traffic counts, maintenance costs and the cost of treatment.
There are about 500 miles of county-maintained lime-rock roads in Hernando. Residential lime-rock roads are usually paved through a petition process in which residents ask the county to pave their road and those residents agree to pay two-thirds of the cost of that project.
In addition to adding the Highfield and Drew projects to the county's wish list for more federal funding, several sidewalk projects, improvements to Osowaw Boulevard and Shoal Line Road, and another phase of the planned Good Neighbor Trail were also approved as part of the list of projects Hernando officials want the state to consider for federal stimulus money.
While Russell said he wishes the federal dollars could have paid for some of the more substantial road infrastructure needs of Hernando County, these projects are having a positive effect by putting people to work and allowing those salaries to trickle into local coffers.
Plus, he noted, the funds are coming from gas taxes and other fees local residents put into the system anyway.
"We're just getting what we've paid for,'' Russell said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.