Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is advocating for direct aid from the federal government in the next big-ticket stimulus plan, offering more than $1 billion in “Ready to Go” projects that could provide nearly 19,000 jobs in the Charleston area. The local proposals were part of a national effort by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to highlight projects that could benefit from a likely infrastrcuture-based stimulus package focused on improving things like schools, water systems, and mass transit.

“It’s an example of the projects we would be able to develop, bid, get under construction, and substantially complete within two years,” Riley says, noting any final decisions on an actual wish list would come from the City Council.

While still in the preliminary stages, the package will likely move swiftly through Congress, with President-elect Barack Obama’s desire to approve it on his first day in office. Riley says Obama is likely to meet with mayors from across the nation in the next two weeks to discuss their Main Street Economic Recovery proposal.

There hasn’t been an opportunity like the proposed recovery plan in his more than three decades in office, Riley says. Some of the projects the city has offered up would be more than a decade off without the stimulus aid.

Riley and other mayors are advocating direct access to the money, rather than a lump sum handed to state officials in Columbia.

“That would slow things up and cost more with another layer of bureaucracy,” Riley says. “The whole purpose is to get Americans back to work.”

Some of Charleston’s “Ready to Go” projects are:

$78 million for Commuter Rail

$44 million in various park improvements

$24 million for Horzon Parking Deck

$26.5 million for Stono Park rebuild

$31.5 million for Harborview rebuild

$34 million for Buist Academy

$33.8 million for Buist rebuild

$36.8 millioin for Memmiger rebuild

$37 million for St. Andrews rebuild

$25 million Morrison Drive Reconstruction (home to City Paper HQ)

$60 million for Spring/Fishburne/Hwy 17 Drainage Project

$30 million for Market Street drainage

Here’s the full list.

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