As the American Recovery and Rein-vestment Act reaches the eight-month mark, the construction industry is seeing a decidedly mixed picture. The $787-billion stimulus package’s estimated $130 billion of construction money is flowing out through many federal and nonfederal agency channels, but those agencies are moving their ARRA money out at varying rates on diverse projects across the U.S. Some are shown on the following pages.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Oct. 1 that the Federal Highway Administration had obligated 72% of its $27.1 billion of ARRA money, the Federal Aviation Administration had obligated 99% of its $1.1 billion for airport improvements, and the Federal Transit Administration had committed 88% of its $8.4 billion stimulus allotment. “The money is out the door,” said LaHood. The federal road and bridge aid then goes to state agencies, which award the contracts. Some states have been more aggressive in awarding the work. Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors, gives “good marks [to] FHWA and many of the state DOTs in turning their money into contracts.”
Other ARRA-funded construction contracts are managed directly by federal agencies. They also are moving at varying rates of speed. The Dept. of Defense had obligated about $3.3 billion of its $7.4 billion of ARRA money as of Sept. 30. That amount includes $2.5 billion, or 58%, of its facilities modernization account and $578 million, or 26%, of its military construction program stimulus aid.
The Army Corps of Engineers did not issue its list of civil-works stimulus projects until April 28, more than two months after ARRA was enacted. By the end of September, the Corps had obligated 48% of its $4.6 billion of stimulus funds. That amount includes $1.3 billion for operations and maintenance work and $790 million for construction projects.
The General Services Administration took six weeks to release its stimulus-project list, outlining how it planned to divide its $5.5 billion of ARRA funds for constructing or upgrading federal buildings. Thanks to a wave of contract awards in July, GSA had obligated almost $1 billion of stimulus projects by the end of that month. By Sept. 30, GSA’s stimulus awards were up to $1.4 billion. A spokeswoman says the agency is on track to obligate another $600 million by Dec. 31.
Water-sector contracting is lagging. By July 31, the Environmental Protection Agency had obligated more than 80% of its $6 billion in ARRA aid for Clean Water and drinking-water state revolving funds (SRFs). But state and local agencies are responsible for those contract awards, and progress has been slow. As of Aug. 31, 25 states reported they had no Clean Water SRF projects under contract. Only 311 such projects, totaling $667 million, were under contract nationwide, according to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Simonson says ARRA’s “Buy American” provision has repeatedly delayed water and wastewater-treatment contract awards.