Nationally and regionally, 2009 was a pretty dismal year, economically. Construction felt the downturn especially, with an industry unemployment rate that peaked at 22.7% last December.

Additionally, earlier this year, McGraw-Hill Construction, publisher of Southeast Construction, estimated that the value of new contracts in the four-state region declined by a collective 24% during 2009, compared to 2008. (And 2008 had the lowest value of new work in many years.)

Unfortunately, that downward market trajectory was the main story line of 2009. But another was the seeds of future construction activity that were being planted by government spending.

Looking at this year�s ranking of the Southeast�s Top Project Starts, that government spending is definitely evident. In fact, this year�s ranking represents a not-insignificant improvement from last year�s. For example, the 20 projects included in this year�s Top Project Starts ranking collectively adds up to more than $6.6 billion. That�s $1.6 billion more than last year�s ranking, when the 20 new contracts equaled approximately $5 billion.

As a result, only a few projects involving private-sector funding make this year�s list. However, there are a few notable contributions from the private sector. This year�s top-ranked project, for example, the Interstate 595 contract in Broward County, Fla., is proceeding with contractor financing via a public-private partnership.

The Ranking The Top Project Starts report ranks, by construction contract value, the biggest projects to break ground during 2009 within Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Project costs listed here are the reported values of the construction contracts, as confirmed with the contractor or others involved with the project. If we could not verify a project�s contract value or other criteria, we did not include that project in our ranking. If you think we �missed� a project, feel free to inform us. Readers can email me at