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Kyl overlooks AZ benefits of stimulus

Arizona’s plan to widen the congested streets of U.S. 60 – our own Grand Avenue – became the 6,000th highway project in the nation this week to be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or federal stimulus.

This project puts nearly $45 million to work in Maricopa County, bringing desperately needed jobs to our state. But Sen. Jon Kyl said he doesn’t approve of this economic boost to Arizona.

Kyl said on national TV on July 12 that the stimulus projects should be canceled and that all remaining unspent monies should be returned to the federal Treasury.

From his office in Washington, Kyl must not be aware of the vital role stimulus dollars are playing in protecting education, health care, public safety and infrastructure right here in Arizona.

Kyl has said that the spending isn’t effective – that it’s not boosting the economy. But here in Arizona, we have proof that it is working.

The Recovery Act has funded 135 projects in our state, totaling $308 million.

The state Department of Transportation estimates that the federal stimulus highway projects alone will create and sustain more than 6,000 jobs in Arizona, which total $521 million.

Arizona completed its first Recovery Act-funded transportation project just last week – the State Route 69 repaving project between Cordes Junction and Mayer in Yavapai County.

And beginning this week, the 6,000th federal stimulus transportation project in the nation will widen U.S. 60/Grand Avenue from four lanes to six between State Route 303 and 99th Avenue, which serves an estimated 45,000 vehicles daily.

Unlike other areas of the Valley, which can accommodate high volumes of traffic with access to interstate highways, the area near Sun City, El Mirage, Peoria, and Surprise – a vital link between Phoenix and Las Vegas – has no major thoroughfare other than Grand Avenue.

When completed, the project will greatly relieve one of Phoenix’s most congested corridors and help reduce greenhouse gases in the area.

It will also bring jobs right here to Arizona.

This part of the stimulus, which will make critical repairs to our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, partially will be left up to local leaders like mayors and governors to decide where it will be used. If they don’t use it, we could lose out, not just on the repairs, but also on the jobs we desperately need.

Arizona should get its fair share of federal tax dollars, or else what we pay to the federal government in taxes could go back to Washington instead of here where it’s needed.

We need to make sure this money comes home to Arizona to put people back to work and build a stronger Arizona economy for the future. With more than 30,000 projects approved, this is the largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the Interstate Highway System, and it creates jobs right away and builds a long-term economic future for Arizona.

Perhaps the next time Senator Kyl comes back to Arizona, he could take a drive along the newly and beautifully repaved State Route 69 and see the hard work completed by men and women employed through the Recovery Act.

- Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Phoenix, is assistant minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives.

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