From the Panhandle to the Florida Keys, Floridians could see highway projects expedited and construction workers on the job if the stimulus package becomes a reality.

The Florida Dept. of Transportation has nearly $7 billion worth of projects that could start within 90 to 120 days, Gov. Charlie Crist (R) told President-elect Barack Obama in a letter dated Dec. 2.

 “This infusion of federal support could provide $39 billion in economic benefits and create an additional 195,000 jobs,” Crist wrote.

Bob Burleson, president of the Florida Transportation Builders’ Association in Tallahassee, says, “I think the proposed stimulus package for infrastructure will get the economy going more than anything else. We have a lot of work ready to go.”

All of the projects are on the FDOT’s work plan but need funding to advance. More than a third of the work is in Central Florida. The state would use $2.7 billion to widen Interstate 4 from State Road 435, near the attractions area to the Seminole County line. The state has broken the project into four design-build contacts, at $1.4 billion, $518 million, $554 million and $193 million.

The list is full of new roads, such as a 79.6 million job in Polk County, an $86 million one in Lee County and a $125 million project in Duval County. 

More than $336 million would go toward replacing and widening the Choctawhatchee Bay bridge in Walton County and $118 million to a new Indian Street Bridge in Martin County. About $227 million would fund additional lanes on Interstate 275 in Hillsborough County.

The money also would fund high-occupancy vehicle lanes along Interstate 95 in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, $150 million and $62 million, respectively. Also in Miami, the state is looking for $577 million in funding to reconstruct the State Road 826/State Road 836 interchange.

Securing the work may require contractors and designers to quickly team up to bid on design-build projects. But Burleson does not expect that will be a problem, since many contractors and design firms have established relationships.

“Everybody is anxious and ready to go,” Burleson says. “We need it quick.”

Joe Debs, senior vice president of Reynolds, Smith and Hills in Jacksonville, Fla., calls the package extremely welcome, with his firm ready to start. RS&H of Jacksonville serves as the Interstate 595 corridor design consultant and the design engineer for the historic Bridge of Lions bridge replacement in St. Augustine to be completed in 2009.

“All of us have seen a sharp decline in activity during the last six months,” says Debs, but the stimulus package would restart it. “By beginning construction, there is an economic return beyond the construction and design industries.”

Gilberto Neves, CEO of Odebrecht Construction in Coral Gables, Fla., agreed. Odebrecht is currently working on the expansion of Miami International Airport and on levee reconstruction projects in New Orleans.

“We are greatly encouraged by indications that president-elect Obama’s economic stimulus plan is focused on infrastructure investments since these have a clear multiplier effect on the economy,” Neves says in an email response to questions. “Infrastructure investment not only brings short-term economic stimulus, it leaves the country in a stronger position to face an increasingly competitive global economy. This is especially true of Florida which is greatly dependent on trade for its economic growth and job creation.”