The State Transportation Board in Georgia plans to use up to half of its $932 million in stimulus funding for maintenance projects, such as resurfacing and interstate rehabilitation. Roughly a quarter will go for new-capacity or congestion-relief projects. About 10% will fund bridge replacement and rehab, another 10% is for safety projects and 4% is for enhancements.
The sudden influx of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding brings long-awaited bidding opportunities for the state’s highway contractors. But the competition among hungry road builders is extreme, and the prices reflect it.
Georgia Dept. of Transportation press secretary David Spear, who described bidding on GDOT’s initial May offering of stimulus projects as “aggressive and very competitive,” says that bids came in at 87% of expectations (or 13% less that projected) in both the May and June lettings.
“We believe the bids are reflective of a continuing aggressive posture by contractors here to get back to work,” Spear says in an e-mail. “Because of our own budget shortfall, we are awarding hardly any projects other than stimulus.”
Stimulus Under Way The first round of GDOT Phase One stimulus projects was included in the May letting. Some 40 contracts were awarded for a total of about $55.9 million.
The first Georgia project to break ground was a $940,000 undertaking on US 19/SR 3 in Hapeville. Contractor on the 4.2-mi resurfacing project is C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. of Marietta.
Among those on hand for the groundbreaking were Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, GDOT Commissioner Vance Smith and Deputy U.S. Transportation Secretary John Porcari.
In May and June, C.W. Matthews was low bidder on 21 stimulus projects with a total value of about $49.5 million.
“These contracts will have a significant positive impact on our company’s ability to retain over 250 current Georgia employees that would have otherwise been without employment, along with the benefit that will accrue to numerous suppliers and subcontractors,” says Bill Hammack, president and COO of C.W. Matthews. He adds that the contractor recently added about 50 new employees, most in response to the stimulus contracts. But he says the big impact of the stimulus “is not so much how many new employees it has created but how many employees it allows us to keep from laying off.”
Just the Beginning In addition to the 40 ARRA projects awarded in May, an additional 29 contracts worth an additional $81.4 million were awarded in June. Georgia’s July highway letting brought even more; in fact, every July letting project except one was a stimulus project.
Currently, numerous stimulus projects have been awarded or are under construction across the state. They include:
• Resurfacing of 20 mi of Interstate 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties. C.W. Matthews is the contractor on the $18.6-million project.
• A $7.6-million project including sidewalk, pedestrian upgrades and video-detection system installation on SR 154 in DeKalb County. CMES of Lilburn, Ga., is the contractor.
• A $4.1-million resurfacing project on 13 mi of US 1 in southeastern Georgia’s Carlton County. Dixie Roadbuilders of Waycross, Ga., is the contractor.
• Construction of a SR 25 bridge over a rail line in Chatham County. Rogers Bridge Co. is the contractor on the $3.8-million project.
• A $3.5-million resurfacing project on 25 mi of SR 23 in Brantley and Charlton counties to Je Hiers Co. of Baxley, Ga., for $3.5 million
• A $2.2-million resurfacing project in Dodge County. Ross Construction of Tifton, Ga., is the contractor.
• Bridge replacements in Tattnall, Gordon/Murray, Bulloch, Candler and Atkinson counties
Also awarded in July were two previously deferred stimulus jobs. They include intersection/safety improvements on US 29 at Pleasant Hill Road in northeast Atlanta’s Gwinnett County, awarded to ER Snell Contractor of Snellville, Ga., for $8.8 million, and similar improvements on the same route at Beaver Ruin Road (also in Gwinnett) awarded to C.W. Matthews for $5.7 million.
With phase one wrapped up in July, the focus has shifted to selecting phase two projects that will be awarded through the rest of the year. More than $350 million is available for funding of this second phase.
Is It Working? “Contractors across Georgia are going back to work,” Transportation Board Chairman Bill Kuhlke Jr. stated in a press release. “They are putting people back to work—at their own firms, at their subcontractors and at their vendors and suppliers. We’ve made a good beginning and are going to focus now on increasing the job creation pace throughout the year.”
David Moellering, executive director of the Georgia Highway Contractors Association, adds that the impact of these stimulus projects “has the potential to be good. It comes down to how quickly the projects are let and put into the system.”
Moellering says the stimulus projects are providing work that’s in addition to GDOT’s normal program. In FY 2010, for example—which began in July—the result will be more projects available for letting.
Although there are not yet enough stimulus projects out there to create new construction jobs, “These projects are enabling our members to keep people working,” Moellering says.