Las Vegas Sun

December 5, 2021

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Stimulus is paying, not that you’d know it here

Shhh. Those road projects are paid for by the federal stimulus.

Nevada has opted not to erect signs designating highway projects paid for by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, despite “strong encouragement” from the federal government to draw motorists’ attention to the work’s funding source.

As road projects were put up for bid over the past few months, Nevada Transportation Department Director Susan Martinovich decided not to spend money on the signs, which cost about $1,200 each, department spokesman Scott Magruder said.

“We made a decision not to put up signs based on costs,” Magruder said. “Purely on costs.”

The signs, which show the silhouette of a worker digging and the words “putting America to work,” can be either 10 feet by 7 feet or 7 feet by 5 feet, according to a layout provided to states by the federal government.

The New York Times reported this week that some vendors in other states are charging as much as $4,000 for the largest signs. Nevada has an in-house sign shop in Reno that produces most of the department’s signs at a lower cost.

Nevada is among the few states that have chosen not to put up the signs after grumbling from conservatives about the cost and concern that the signs amount to a political ad for a key Democratic policy program.

Among the states that have decided to not use the signs are Georgia, Florida, New York and Texas.

In March, President Barack Obama “made the commitment” that all projects funded by the plan would have the recovery emblem, according to the Federal Highway Administration Web site.

States were strongly encouraged to use the signs. But a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration stressed that they are optional.

“As part of the administration’s commitment to keeping government transparent and accountable, the ARRA signs ... were envisioned as a way to help motorists see where their tax dollars were going,” said Doug Hecox, the agency’s spokesman.

Nevada received $201 million in stimulus money for transportation. Of that, the state controlled $134 million, with the remainder divided among Clark County, Washoe County and the rurals.

Instead of doing one large project with the money, the Nevada Transportation Department decided to do projects across the state.

“Some (projects) will be up for three or four months,” Magruder said. “Maybe if we were doing one major project that would be out for one or two years, we would consider putting up a sign.”

Of the 18 state projects, 15 have been put out to bid and work has started on seven or eight, he said.

The first one in Clark County is a landscaping project along U.S. 95 north of the Spaghetti Bowl.

A recent report by a U.S. House committee found Nevada to be one of the states spending its transportation stimulus money the slowest.

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