DALLAS - Falling construction costs mean that federal stimulus funds may go farther than expected.

State transportation officials have reported bids coming in as much as 30% below expected costs.

In the first three months since passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, bids for Texas transportation projects have come in an average of 21% below estimates statewide, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

In Colorado, the Department of Transportation says it will have money left over after bidding out three projects that came in well below expectations.

"It was very positive to see such competitive bidding on our first round of ARRA projects," said CDOT executive director Russ George. "The project bids came in an average of 12% lower than expected. If this trend continues, we may be able to accumulate enough funding to add more construction projects to our list."

The South Carolina Department of Transportation reported that bids for 12 contracts were running 21% below estimate costs. Despite the state's initial resistance, South Carolina agreed to accept $463 million for highway projects through the stimulus program.

Oklahoma officials also reported savings, with prices lower than they have been in nearly four years.

The state reports appear to support President Obama's statement last week that highway projects funded by the $787 billion economic stimulus plan are coming in "ahead of schedule and under budget."

The bargains are clearly due to the worsening economic conditions, officials said.

"Given the extremely challenging economic environment our contractors are operating in, with significant declines in private-sector construction activity, it is hard to imagine how much worse conditions would be if not for the stimulus," said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. "The bottom line is, our members are eager and anxious to get to work rebuilding America's economy and the stimulus is helping them do just that."

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