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Area projects are on the list

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WILLMAR -- Highway projects in Chippewa and Kandiyohi counties are among 60 projects that are slated to begin construction in rural Minnesota as early as this spring thanks to $180 million in federal stimulus funding, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced on Wednesday.

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The projects include $13.6 million for a concrete overlay of Minnesota Highway 7 from Montevideo to Clara City and $1.6 million to begin the Minnesota Highway 23 bypass project at Paynesville.

Montevideo Mayor Jim Curtiss was happy to see the Highway 7 project included, stating that the improvement will benefit the region. Curtiss, who has been working to see improvements to both U.S. Highway 212 and state Highway 23 as well, said he hopes this signals the start of greater investment in the road needs of the region.

The Highway 23 bypass funding was anticipated, as the project was among the "shovel ready'' projects submitted for stimulus funding.

In announcing the road projects, Pawlenty said they represent "bread and butter projects that we should have seen more of in the federal stimulus package.

"Unfortunately, only $27.5 billion of the $787 billion bill funds highway improvements,'' Pawlenty said.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that the Greater Minnesota transportation projects will create approximately 5,000 jobs. Projects in the Twin Cities metro area are being finalized and will be announced in March.

Contractors for the first round of projects will be selected March 13, with work to begin in May.

Minnesota is expected to receive more than $596 million for state and local highway and transit projects over the next two years as a result of the federal legislation. Approximately 30 percent of the highway funds are available for local units of government and the remaining 70 percent is for projects identified by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to meet the goal of the federal legislation to create jobs and improve the nation's infrastructure. The bulk of the money will go for roads and bridges, with half of the funds targeted for projects that must start within 120 days.

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