SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The success or failure of the federal stimulus package may be determined by the kind of project taking place in the center of a rock-riddled road in Saratoga Springs.
It is at that location on Church Street, just outside Saratoga Hospital, that a $2.8 million stimulus project is under way, and where the local debate has begun about whether the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing what its supporters had hoped.
"My personal opinion is that this particular job has not created anything additional by being part of the stimulus project," said city engineer Paul Male.
The city initially decided to move forward with a project to construct a signalized intersection at Church and Myrtle streets in June 2008 after a proposition to construct the city's first roundabout at that location was defeated.
The cost of the signalized intersection was set at about $1.6 million, with federal funds set to pay for 80 percent of the project. State funds were to account for another 15 percent, while the remaining 5 percent balance would be paid by the city.
"This was going to get done no matter what. It probably already would have been done if it wasn't a stimulus project. It saved us and the state a little bit of money, but I think it delayed the project," he said.
Earlier this year, the "shovel-ready" Church Street project was promoted by then-congressional candidate Scott Murphy during his campaign tour as a stimulus-friendly project and subsequently announced by Gov. David Paterson as a $2.8 million expanded reconstruction to be fully funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The expanded amount enabled the city to add more details to the project than it had initially anticipated.
"It's a good project and a long time coming. You get a lot of truck traffic coming through, so it's a section of road that really took a beating," said city Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco.
The larger project includes curbs, sidewalks and street lighting. An existing 8-inch water main is also currently being replaced by a 12-inch water line.
A state report released earlier this week showed that Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties will receive nearly $161 million in federal stimulus money.
Saratoga County, which has the largest population among the three, is in line to receive $89.8 million.
An average of 17 workers are at the site on any given day using a trio of excavators, two bulldozers, a roller, and other machinery, said Mike Mastropietro, engineer in charge of the project at Creighton Manning Engineering.
Area companies involved in the project include the Troy-based Del Signore Blacktop Paving, a tree removal service in Gansevoort and a landscape contractor from Watervliet, in addition to other subcontractors. City employees are not involved in the reconstruction project.
"I would say in the case of Del Signore, they were able to keep some of their people working because of this project, because by this time of year the construction season is coming to an end," Mastropietro said. "I think it has helped people who probably wouldn't be working at this time of year, still getting a paycheck."
In addition to the much-needed project, Scirocco said he hoped there were some financially tangential benefits to the city and local businesses.
"I would guess some of the workers are probably buying their gas here, maybe their lunch, or doing some shopping at the market. They're also buying materials, which is also hopefully coming from here," Scirocco said.
Mastropietro said stone material was purchased from a Saratoga Springs manufacturer, the Pallette Stone Corp., and drainage products were bought from a manufacturer in Washington County.
Representatives from an area Stewart's Shops store and the local Shirley's Diner said because of the volume of customers they see on a daily basis, it is difficult to gauge the impact, if any, of Church Street workers visiting their respective establishments.
Amanda Eberle, an employee at Dunkin' Donuts on West Avenue, said sales are "definitely up" since the reconstruction project began.
City engineer Paul Male was quick to point out, however, that the city is rererouting more local traffic away from Church Street and onto West Avenue, where the shop is located.
Male said he didn't believe the workers were likely to spend much money in the city either.
"It's like the people who go to the racino and then go home and that's about it. They're not going downtown to spend money," he said.
The $1.6 million in funds targeted for the initial reconstruction project is expected to be reallocated through the Transportation Improvement Program and believed to be used in another community somewhere in the state to help fund a project, Male said.
The current phase of work at Church Street - which has resulted in the closure of the road -- is expected to continue until the end of November, when the road will be reopened. Crews are expected to return in the spring to complete the project.