The transportation agency for San Bernardino County approved a plan for doling out the federal stimulus funds that will come to the county for road projects.

The San Bernardino Associated Governments board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to put the county's entire allocation of stimulus funds towards a $436 million widening project on Interstate 215 in San Bernardino while shifting state and local funds that otherwise would have gone to that project into creating a local stimulus fund for city projects.

SANBAG expects to get about $80 million in stimulus funds for transportation projects to distribute throughout the county and hopes to leverage another $49 million in state stimulus funds as well, SANBAG Executive Director Deborah Barmack said.

All of the funds will go to the I-215 project, the future of which had been in jeopardy because of California's fiscal crisis. However, the board also voted to create a local stimulus fund, probably totaling about $32 million, that would be available to cities to use for local street and infrastructure projects.

The projects to be funded by the local stimulus fund would not be subject to the stringent restrictions and reporting requirements on projects funded by federal stimulus money, because the money would come from state and local sources.

"The concept of that program is to put more flexible funding in the hands of cities in the county," Barmack said.

SANBAG staff will work on a plan for distributing the local stimulus funds, which will go back to the agency's committees before returning to the board for final approval, probably within the next two or three months, Barmack said.

The initial staff proposal was to give each city in the county a base amount of $200,000 with the rest of the money to be distributed according to population.

Barstow City Councilwoman Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre, who sits on the SANBAG board, said she would prefer to see the funds distributed by a formula that takes into account the city's sales tax revenues as well as its population.

Overall, she said she was pleased with the concept of creating a local stimulus fund. The City Council has not yet discussed which street projects it might put the money toward.

As part of its discussion of the stimulus package, the board also approved an allocation of stimulus funds to public transit operators throughout the county, which will give Barstow Area Transit $428,126 for costs like materials, labor, supplies and services.

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