May 20, 2004

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s plan of putting the worker first is resulting in a few IOUs. State lawmakers weren’t about to fret over paper cuts, at least for the time being.

In April, Blagojevich announced Illinois’ comprehensive $8.3 billion multiyear highway improvement program covering FY 2005 through 2011. The move focuses on “preserving and modernizing existing roads, as well as reducing congestion.”

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s plan of putting the worker first is resulting in a few IOUs. State lawmakers weren’t about to fret over paper cuts, at least for the time being.

In April, Blagojevich announced Illinois’ comprehensive $8.3 billion multiyear highway improvement program covering FY 2005 through 2011. The move focuses on “preserving and modernizing existing roads, as well as reducing congestion.”

In an effort to create more jobs, Blagojevich unveiled his Opportunity Returns program, which will translate into an additional $1 billion in highway improvements over the next three years. To create new jobs almost instantly, the governor is accelerating $200 million to be used this summer for system preservation and maintenance projects. The Illinois Department of Transportation estimates the move will generate 4,800 jobs in FY 2005 alone.

But with Opportunity Returns comes a heavy reliance on borrowing. The move will require the state’s General Assembly to approve $2 billion in new bonding.

Blagojevich, however, said the plan would provide $500 million a year for three years for transportation projects targeted toward economic development efforts. The loan would be paid back with money from license registrations and motor fuel taxes.

“We can’t wait on Washington to act. We must spur our own economic recovery, and that is what we are doing with Opportunity Returns,” said Blagojevich.

Opponents, however, claim some of the jobs in the $8.3 billion package lack specifics. Projects like the Dan Ryan Expressway and I-80 are set to receive major upgrades, but plans that appear a bit sketchy include a western access to O’Hare International Airport, improvements to upper and lower Wacker Drive and needed construction on I-55.

Matt Vanover, spokesman for IDOT, told Roads & Bridges that although certain items weren’t addressed it doesn’t mean they’ll be ignored. “If you look at our multiyear program we do address those projects,” he said. “Those projects were not left out of the program. Without knowing what the federal government is going to do there’s not sufficient funding to do projects like the Prairie Parkway or the new Mississippi River Bridge. With some of these projects there is work going on, but right now there is incomplete funding for them. That’s why we’re working so diligently with our Congressional delegation (on Capitol Hill) to improve Illinois’ return of investment from the federal government on transportation dollars.”

The $8.3 billion multiyear program includes $3.2 billion in state funds, $4.8 billion in federal funds and $322 million in local funding. The federal portion is based on funding estimates that assume the current level of federal funding.

Illinois has been known as the aggressor when it comes to transportation funding. Under Gov. George Ryan, the state passed the largest infrastructure blueprint (Illinois FIRST) in its history.

“What Illinois has done and what Governor Blagojevich continues to do is to recognize the importance of transportation to the economy and we continue to invest in it,” said Vanover.

EPA says no to more regulations governing storm-water runoff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided not to establish more stringent guidelines for storm-water runoff from construction sites. “After careful study, we determined that almost every state has requirements in place that are equivalent to or even more protective than those contained in this proposal,” the EPA wrote in its decision at the end of March, explaining why additional regulation was not needed.

“EPA has opted to rely on the range of existing regulations and programs in place at the federal, state and local levels to control storm-water runoff from construction sites,” the EPA stated. “Under the NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] regulations for storm water, states and municipalities are implementing significant new requirements to better address contaminated storm-water runoff from construction sites.”

Praising the agency, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) declared that the EPA’s decision was “a great victory for everyone who values common sense as much as the environment.”

“Our members want and intend to be good stewards of the environment. They take environmental issues very seriously,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. “It just didn’t make any sense for the EPA to implement more changes to its storm-water program before it completely evaluates the effects of its existing regulations.”

The EPA proposed the “effluent guideline” in June 2002 to supplement existing regulations addressing storm-water discharges from construction sites. Current regulations under the NPDES program, known as Phase II, require permitting authorities to establish programs to regulate runoff from construction sites of one to five acres in size. Phase II regulations went into effect in March 2003. Larger construction sites have been regulated under the NPDES program, known as Phase I, since 1992.

“Our analysis indicates that every state has regulations and programs in place that incorporate most of the provisions of our most stringent proposed option,” wrote the EPA.

Many other communities covered by Phase II regulations are just now developing or upgrading their programs to meet the requirements. In conclusion, the EPA said it wanted to give local decision makers the maximum flexibility to develop runoff-control strategies that are tailored to the construction sites in their jurisdiction, but the proposed guideline would have limited that flexibility.

“Further, the costs of the proposed regulatory options would be very high,” said the agency, “and these options would provide only marginal environmental improvements over regulations already in place. The most stringent of the regulatory options would have reduced sediment loadings from construction sites by only about one percent more than the existing regulations.”

Environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), worked hard for tighter controls of storm-water runoff from construction sites.

The NRDC said the current regulations have proven inadequate to protect waters and wetlands in fast-developing areas of the country. NRDC cited Atlanta Regional Commission statistics that 80% of the Atlanta metro area’s 800 miles of streams do not meet water quality standards because of runoff.

NRDC viewed the EPA’s decision as a major setback and called the decision “toothless,” stating that commercial and residential development is the nation’s fastest-growing source of water pollution.

Caltrans agrees to install storm-water runoff controls

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has agreed to install controls to stop storm-water runoff from state highways from carrying pollution into rivers and the ocean, according to a document filed in federal court in April. The agreement was spurred by a Clean Water Act lawsuit filed in 1994 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Santa Monica BayKeeper and its founder, Terry Tamminen, who is now secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

“As one of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit 10 years ago, I think it’s terrific to see Caltrans finally take responsibility for the pollution that runs off its highways,” said Tamminen.

Tamminen said the agreement was balanced and fully considered costs and technical feasibility. Caltrans had contended that the pollution controls were ineffective and costly, according to Equipment World. One estimate put the cost to install the measures at $5 billion for Los Angeles County alone. “Working together with the NRDC and the Santa Monica BayKeeper, I think we’ve come to a good resolution on an important environmental issue,” David Anderson, a spokesman for Caltrans, told Roads & Bridges. “We think the environment is going to be the real winner in this agreement. This will significantly benefit California’s aquatic environment.”

California was the lead agency in a multiyear retrofit pilot study that identified treatment methods that would be cost-effective for the state’s taxpayers. “We’re taking the findings from that study, and they’re being incorporated into our day-to-day project development, into construction, into maintenance,” Anderson said, “as a way to more effectively address the treatment of storm-water runoff from highways.”

Storm-water runoff is the largest source of coastal water pollution, the NRDC said, and highways are a major part of the problem. Cars and trucks leave behind pollutants such as zinc and copper dust from brake pads, particles from tires, oil and grease. Tests of some of Caltrans’ drains have found storm water so contaminated that it qualified as hazardous waste.

According to the settlement, Caltrans will choose from a dozen approved devices—including filters, sand traps and catch basins—to install on new highways and freeways. Older highways will have to be retrofitted during improvement projects.

The U.S. District Court will now review the settlement and decide whether to approve it.

New highways and bridges up 16%

New starts on highways and bridges were up 16% in February, compared with January, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. The number was boosted by the start of several large bridge projects in states such as Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. For the nonbuilding construction sector as a whole, February was even with January, and the first two months of the year were down 13% from the first two months of 2003.

The value of new construction starts as a whole increased 4% in February, compared with January, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $535.6 billion.

“The construction industry appears to be hovering at a level close to last year’s pace,” stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “Admittedly, though, this year’s sharp increase in steel prices has made the nonresidential upturn less certain, given the impact that higher costs and materials shortages may have on individual construction projects. At this juncture, it appears that the nonresidential upturn will be dampened but not derailed, assuming steel prices settle back by midyear, but the situation clearly bears watching.”

Transportation services inch up

The Transportation Services Index (TSI) reached the highest level in the 14-year period covered by the index with a 0.8% rise in January, the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported.

The increase was the fifth consecutive monthly increase following a decrease in August 2003. The January level of 121.4 was 4.9% higher than in January 2003. During the six months ending in January, the TSI rose 5.1%.

TSI is a single seasonally adjusted index of the month-to-month changes in the output of services provided by the for-hire transportation industries, including railroad, air, truck, inland waterways, pipeline and local transit.

The TSI for freight decreased 0.9% in January to 119.8, but was 2.3% higher than the January 2003 level of 117.1.

The TSI for passengers was up 4.9% in January to 125.1, 11.5% higher than the January 2003 level of 112.2.

N.C. paying for bad roads

North Carolina motorists pay an extra $5.3 billion annually because of roads that lack desirable safety features, are congested or have poor pavement conditions, according to a report from TRIP, Washington, D.C.

Paying the Price for Inadequate Roads in North Carolina found that one-third of North Carolina’s major roads are in need of repair, and 45% of the state’s urban highways are congested during peak travel times. The result is higher costs in lost time, increased vehicle wear and increased traffic accidents.

“Traffic congestion, highway safety and road and bridge conditions in North Carolina are likely to get worse unless additional state and federal funding is provided,” said William M. Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director.

Newark rebuilds downtown route

The reconstruction of Rte. 21, the only north-south highway through the central business district of Newark, N.J., is continuing on schedule.

“From day one, this project was all about schedule,” said Walt Lawrence, the project manager for Edwards and Kelcey, the prime consultant for the final design of the 2.2-mile project. “The reconstruction of Rte. 21 had to be scheduled to fit the exacting needs of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. This is because, for example, in June 2004 project-area land is being vacated to enable NJ Transit’s Newark City Subway Extension project to proceed on its own rigid schedule. In addition, the reconstruction is going on directly alongside of NJPAC [New Jersey Performing Arts Center] to make room for NJ Transit’s light rail station.”

The design adds one lane in each direction to make Rte. 21 a six-lane highway and adds turning lanes at major intersections and a synchronized traffic signal system. The project also includes two roll-in railroad bridge replacements, utilities, traffic analysis, grading, resurfacing, striping, signage and traffic maintenance. The job will be topped off with decorative landscaping and decorative streetscaping, including new sidewalks, curbing and signal and light fixtures.

The utility work is particularly challenging. The contractors are using electronic detectors to determine the location of underground metallic utility lines. Lawrence said this is the first time such a process has been used in New Jersey on a large scale. The utilities include natural gas, electric, water, telephone, fiber-optic and police and fire alarm systems.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2006 at a total cost of $100 million.

Money released for I-95 repair

The U.S. Department of Transportation has made $13.2 million available to Connecticut for I-95 recovery and repair. The relief money was released in the wake of a truck accident that damaged the interstate near Bridgeport on March 25.

The funds will come from two sources. The DOT will provide $2 million in emergency funds to the state. In addition, Connecticut will be allowed to redirect $11.2 million in federal highway funds to be used for bridge repair and recovery.


Association news >>>>

John W. “Bill” Kirk III, president and chief executive officer of Associated Asphalt Inc., has been named 2004 chairman of the Asphalt Institute board of directors. Paul Kolbeck of Colas S.A. was named vice chairman.

Philip Shucet, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, has been appointed to the executive committee of the Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C.

The Concrete Sawing and Drilling Association has elected six new members to its board of directors: Tim Beckman, Cutting Edge Services Corp.; Patrick Harris, Concrete Renovation Inc.; Bennett Jones, Advanced Concrete Sawing; Jeff Keeling, Precision Demolition Systems Inc.; Steven Lisowski, Advanced Coring & Cutting Corp.; and George Major Jr., Holes of San Antonio.

Tom Letizia Sr., president and CEO of Unique Paving Materials Corp., Cleveland, was awarded the William W. “Bill” Baker Award for lifetime contributions to the asphalt pavement industry at the Flexible Pavements annual convention.

Wildish, Eugene, Ore., a heavy-highway contractor and sand and gravel company, has announced its acquisition of the Vancouver, Wash.-based bridge builder F.E. Ward.

Precision Measurements Inc., Virginia Beach, Va., has hired Edward A. Jordal as a quality control manager. The company’s director of surveys, Ken Leitz, L.S., has been elected president of the Tidewater Chapter of the Virginia Association of Surveyors.

Thompson-McCully Co., Belleville, Mich., has changed its name to Michigan Paving and Materials Co.

Granite Construction Co.’s Arizona branch, Tucson, was the low bidder on a $2 million improvement project for the Arizona DOT. The 11-mile milling and repaving project is located on S.R. 84 in Stanfield, Ariz. Granite also was the low bidder on an $8 million ADOT improvement project on S.R. 85 in Gila Bend.

Dan Ivens has been appointed director of transportation operations at Ozburn-Hessey Logistics, Nashville, Tenn.

At Wilbur Smith Associates, Columbia, S.C., Joe Burton, P.E., has joined as regional vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Region; John L. Hudson, PLS, has been promoted to division director of the Columbia Survey Division; Charles F. Stearns, P.E., has been promoted to division manager and director of roadways for the Mid South Region; and Michael T. McGuire, P.E., has been promoted to vice president of the Mid South Region.

James L. Foil, P.E., has been promoted to senior vice president and general manager of the Infrastructure Group at Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, Mo.

Bradley C. Touchstone, AIA, has been appointed bridge architect/bridge aesthetics manager of the Bridge & Tunnel Division of Parsons, Pasadena, Calif.

Eric M. Borgman has been appointed Construction Division project manager at V3 Infrastructure Services Ltd., Woodridge, Ill.

At Klotz Associates Inc., Houston, Bill G. Caffey, P.E., has been named a transportation specialist and Larry W. Blazek, P.E., has been named Transportation Division manager.

Stan Kobayashi, P.E., has joined Lonco Inc., Denver, as manager of the Transportation Department.

McMahon Associates Inc., Fort Washington, Pa., has accepted new shareholders of the firm: Louis D. Possanza, MBA, corporate administrator; Carolyn Gish, P.E., senior project manager; Matthew M. Kozsuch, P.E., senior project manager; and Andrew L. Brown, P.E., project manager.

Frank T. Martin has joined PBS&J’s National Transit Services Division, Tallahassee, Fla., as a vice president and senior project director.

Jerry Markesino, an expert on right-of-way accessibility, has joined Otak Inc., Portland, Ore., in its Public Services Group.

Martin D. Hull, AICP, has been named transit planner and project manager in the Philadelphia office of Michael Baker Jr. Inc., the engineering unit of Michael Baker Corp.

Manufacturing News

Bill Shaker has been named polymer additives market development manager at Potters Industries Inc., Valley Forge, Pa.

Eric Eaton has been named national training manager at Thompson Pump, Port Orange, Fla.

JCB Inc., Savannah, Ga., has restructured its North American sales and marketing: Bob Wright will head dealer development, remarketing, governmental sales and business planning; Bruce Narveson has been named vice president of sales for the Northeast region; Jan Nielsen is now general manager for the Central region; David Hahn has been named general manager of the Western region; Ron Fulmer is now general manager for Canada; and Gordon Henderson will continue as vice president of sales for the Southeast region.

Meris Gebhardt has joined the sales staff at Tracker Software Corp., Snowmass Village, Colo.

PBM Concrete, Rochelle, Ill., has merged into J.W. Peters, Burlington, Wis.

JLG Industries Inc., McConnellsburg, Pa., has made a binding offer to purchase Delta Manlift, a Tonneins, France, subsidiary of the Manitowoc Co. Inc. JLG also will acquire certain intellectual property and related assets that will allow it to relaunch selected models of Manitowoc’s recently discontinued Liftlux aerial work platforms at a later date.

Scott Brower has been named vice president of marketing and market development at JLG.

Gary Bomstad has been named the first-ever director of new product development at Stellar Industries Inc., Garner, Iowa.

Topcon Corp., has signed a letter of agreement with Komatsu Ltd. that will allow new Komatsu motor graders and bulldozers to be purchased with a Topcon automated machine control system as factory-installed, standard equipment.

Stone Construction Equipment Inc., Honeoye, N.Y., has named three new district managers: Paul McClendon in Texas; Gary Ross in West Virginia, Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania; and Jeff Brooks in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and the western provinces of Canada.

Don Cort has been named product support manager for the Pacific Northwest region for LBX Co. LLC, makers of Link-Belt earthmoving, forestry and material handling equipment.

Alan W. Odgers has been named vice president of sales and marketing for Astec Underground, Loudon, Tenn.

—edited by Allen Zeyher

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