As a flurry of new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act updates makes clear, opportunities for construction firms seeking to win ARRA-funded work are waning. Some agencies, such as the General Services Administration, still have substantial stimulus work to award, but in sectors such as highways, the funding window is nearly closed.
Ken Simonson, the Associated General Contractors’ chief economist, says, “It appears that there is now more stimulus-funded construction activity in more sectors of the industry than at any point since last February. … The bad news is that the stimulus is temporary.”
Transportation agencies continue to be pacesetters in pouring stimulus dollars into projects. States had $21.6 billion in ARRA highway work under contract as of March 31. That equals 82% of the act’s formula funds for roads and bridges.
The Dept. of Energy by May 5 had committed 99% of the $32.7 billion ARRA gave it for grants and contracts. Matt Rogers, DOE senior adviser for recovery-act implementation, says, “I always joke, my popularity continues to decline because there’s only $300 million in grant authority left under the program.” Some DOE-obligated aid went to states, which have yet to put all of that money under contract.
The National Park Service has been one of the slower ARRA spenders, with 61% of its $750-million allotment obligated as of May 5. But NPS aims to achieve about the 90% obligation mark by mid-May, Comptroller C. Bruce Sheaffer told a Senate subcommittee.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s latest stimulus report, released on May 5, shows 10,124 ARRA-funded highway and bridge projects under contract by March 31, compared with 9,302 projects, totaling $20.4 billion, on Feb. 28.
It also shows that $628 million, or 85%, of the ARRA funds for fixed-guideway transit projects was under contract by March 31. At Amtrak, as of April 14, work had begun on projects totaling $1.2 billion, or 95% of the railroad’s ARRA funds. In addition, 360 ARRA-financed airport projects, totaling $1.1 billion, were completed or under way—100% of stimulus funding for that category.
In non-transportation programs, the House panel said 100% of the $3.8 billion for ARRA Clean Water State Revolving Fund projects is under contract. The General Services Administration had awarded contracts for 402 ARRA buildings projects, valued at $4 billion, or 72% of its GSA’s recovery-act aid, but it still has more than $1 billion to award.