The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Department of Transportation said Tuesday it has spent nearly $1 billion last budget year on road projects and related costs, rejecting a contention that the agency has been stifling job creation in Georgia’s beleaguered construction industry.

Some of Georgia’s most powerful contractors have claimed hundreds, if not thousands, of on-the-ground jobs have been lost because the department has not spent money more urgently during the recession on paving and road projects. The allegation surfaced last week when the DOT’s governing board booted former Commissioner Vance Smith from the top job.

DOT had $1 billion to use toward projects for the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to DOT. Both board members and Bill Hammack, president of the state’s largest road contractor, C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., complained that the department awarded contracts worth little more than $660 million. Whether because of projects coming in under budget, or not being let out fast enough, critics said the money needed to be reinvested into additional projects to create more jobs.

But numbers provided by the department Tuesday paint a much different picture. According to DOT, Hammack and others are ignoring additional costs and mandates, including incentives to complete projects early; projects bid through local governments; and change orders, supplemental agreements and allotment orders.

All told, $955 million — of a little more than $1 billion available for road work — went to contracts and contractors last year, department spokeswoman Karlene Barron said.

Acting Commissioner Keith Golden, a 25-year DOT veteran appointed by the board last week, said there’s no excess DOT funding.

“There are limited resources federally and statewide,” Golden said in an email Tuesday. “We are looking for creative ways to get things done. We have less people in the department and so we must find ways to ensure that we provide a safe and sustainable level

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