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Thanks to low bids, federal stimulus money is going to pay for more state and local transportation projects

Post by News Tribune Staff on June 5, 2009 at 5:33 pm with No Comments »
June 5, 2009 5:33 pm

This outcome was pretty much expected when the Legislature passed its supplemental transportation budget, a budget that included the federal stimulus funds.

Transportation chairwoman Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, and Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, included a list of alternates at the news conference they held.

Hungry contractors are coming in about 20 percent below estimates. Part of the reason for the low bids is that materials aren’t nearly as expensive as they were after the “China” factor drove up costs.

Most of the stimulus projects, alternates, too, are highway paving projects. Those were the kinds of projects that can be started right away because they don’t require elaborate and time-consuming environmental impact statements. But most of them are in Eastern Washington. I’ll check to see if any local projects are on that list.

Gov. Gregoire, Secretary Hammond announce that lower construction bids result in more transportation projects in the state

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire and Washington Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond announced today that Washington state will deliver more highway projects with federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds than first envisioned, thanks to the recent trend toward lower construction bids.

"At a time when every penny counts, these lower construction cost estimates will provide more opportunities for infrastructure improvements," Gregoire said. "We are seeing the benefits of managing these recovery funds efficiently and effectively as required by the Obama administration."

As of June 1, WSDOT has awarded 15 state stimulus contracts worth $64 million, averaging 21 percent below estimates. Between July 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009, WSDOT awarded 115 construction contracts, 100 of which came in an average of 29.5 percent below cost estimates.

These low bids reverse a trend from 2004 to 2008, when inflation in the cost of highway project construction caused cost escalations of 42 percent.

"We closely follow national trends in construction costs and inflation to make sure our project engineers’ estimates are accurate. The trend toward low bids reflects how difficult the current economy is for our contractors and reinforces how important our stimulus projects are to getting people back to work," Hammond said.

Contractor bids on city and county stimulus projects around the state are also coming in lower than expected.

To date, 63 percent of the local recovery funding has been obligated, with 15 projects awarded and 43 projects now being advertised for bids. Most of Washington’s 147 local highway projects will have been awarded by the end of June.

Approximately $10 million in local stimulus money is available to fund additional projects due to lower than expected bid results on 15 awarded local projects.

The transportation department will begin applying federal stimulus funds to a secondary list of more than $80 million in projects identified by Gregoire and the Legislature as projects that WSDOT could advance if stimulus funding became available.

The first of these projects to receive funding is the Interstate 90-Moses Lake paving project. This nearly $5 million undertaking will be advertised for bids by June 15, with construction to begin in early August and completion scheduled by October.

Washington state is administering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act investments with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability. Gov. Gregoire created a Web site, http://www.recovery.wa.gov/, so every Washingtonian can see where tax dollars are going and hold government accountable for the results. On the federal level, President Obama has appointed Vice President Biden to oversee all states’ recovery efforts and to root out waste and fraud. This combined oversight will ensure taxpayer dollars are put to good use and recharge the economy.

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