Olympia — Washington state will deliver more highway projects with federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds than first envisioned, because of the recent trend toward lower construction bids.

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

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

To date, 63% 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 were 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 Governor Chris 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 begin in early August and be completed by October 2009.

Eugene Area Rapid Transit System Receives Stimulus Dollar Boost

Eugene — The Lane Transit District’s Gateway EmX project, received $2.9 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to enhance rapid bus transit in Lane County.

The ARRA funding is contributing to the “Gateway EmX Extension”, which will extend the existing EmX service to the Gateway area of Springfield. When the new service becomes operational, each EmX vehicle will travel the entire route from downtown Eugene to downtown Springfield to the Gateway area, and back again.

The $41 million project will create 400 jobs during its two-year construction phase and will improve the transportation system in Eugene-Springfield. Ninety-three percent of the cost will be funded by federal and state construction dollars, including $5.4 million from ConnectOregon I grants. LTD is investing a local match of nearly $3 million.

Community Grants Improve Local Water Systems Throughout State

Salem — The Oregon Economic and Community Development Department (OECDD) awarded federal recovery funds to 18 Oregon community water systems totaling $27.8 million to help construct and improve to drinking water systems across the state.

The Department combined the $27.8 million if federal funding from ARRA with $13.9 million in existing state funds and local funds to help finance 18 projects with a total value of $45.2 million. Overall, more than 50% of the Safe Drinking Water funds awarded will go to local community water systems in the form of grants or forgivable loans. The remaining amounts were loaned to the communities for 20 years at a 3% interest rate.

OECDD staff reviewed 112 applications submitted from across the state. At least 20% of the funds provided have to be used for green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency improvements and other environmentally innovative projects.

Communities are expected to execute contracts by the end of July and federal requirements call for projects to be under construction no later than next March.

BR Receives Money to Improve Fish Habitat, Waterways

Washington, D.C. — A $1 billion economic “stimulus” package aims to help repair the West’s water infrastructure and help address long-term water supply challenges.

Of the $1 billion to be invested by the Bureau of Reclamation over the next year and a half, $125.2 million will be spent in the Pacific Northwest to make irrigation systems more efficient and provide critical fixes at federal salmon hatcheries in central Washington

About $50 million will go toward construction of Weber Siphon Complex, which will eliminate a water delivery bottleneck at the East Low Canal and Interstate 90 near Moses Lake, Wash. The siphons will assist in alleviating declining ground water tables and will reduce well-pump energy costs.