The Ohio Department of Transportation also has “pencil-ready” projects.
In late April, the agency announced it would use $57 million in stimulus funds for the planning and development of three critical transportation projects in the Buckeye State, and it did not take long for the critics to step forward. They wanted all of the $774 million in federal aid to go to the “shovel-ready.”
“I could have dug the darn thing myself, that’s how shovel-ready we were,” Fostoria Mayor John Davoli told the Associated Press. Davoli was hoping to receive $10 million to build bridges over two railroad crossings, but his request was denied.
“When you look at the basic principles of the stimulus, to put people back to work immediately, these are dollars that would be invested to put skilled designers, architects and engineers and planners to work immediately,” Scott Varner, spokesman for the Ohio DOT, told Roads & Bridges. “The second piece of the infrastructure stimulus is to leave behind a transformational project. So we are leaving behind the advancement of these major projects getting up to the point where we might be able to then go to construction.”
Ohio, however, appears to be the renegade with this approach. No other state seems to be dedicating money for planning and design.
But Varner would like to view the $57 million as part of a much bigger picture. After all, it is only 7% of the total amount of stimulus money Ohio is receiving, and every dollar has been approved by the FHWA.
“I have heard the stories that perhaps Ohio is unique, and I wouldn’t say that is a bad thing,” he said. “Without these plans we would not be able to make future investments in transportation.”
Three future projects will be fed by stimulus dollars:
The Opportunity Corridor in the Cleveland area will be a 3.3-mile urban arterial roadway connecting I-490 to University Circle, which is home to the second-largest employment in the city. “It was identified by the city as one of its major needs,” said Varner;
The Eastern Corridor in Cincinnati is a multimodal project looking at new rail or transit service, expanded bus service and new highway capacity. Still in the design stages, it has already won awards from the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials and FHWA; and
The Ohio Hub, which is the state’s high-speed rail plan.
At press time, those important shovels had remained clean in Ohio. According to Varner, the state did not have any stimulus projects obligated yet (see Stimulus Pulse, p 12). He expected the first jobs to be ready to go by June.
The Ohio DOT wanted to get as many people involved in the stimulus spending as possible and created a website to ask cities, towns and counties where the immediate needs were.
The agency received 4,600 proposals totaling more than $12 billion.
After asking for more information on each project, the list drew down to 3,600, and picking out those that actually qualified for stimulus money filtered it to 2,222. In the end, the number was 149.
Through the end of 2009, Ohio will dig into $1.9 billion for transportation construction, a record for the state. With the reauthorization of the highway bill creating some rhetoric on Capitol Hill, the hope is for a new milestone being set in the near future.
“There is optimism there, especially since the discussions are about getting that authorization done now instead of later.”
Construction spending down in Feb.
Construction spending during February was estimated by the U.S. Commerce Department at a seasonally adjusted rate of $967.5 billion, 0.9% below the revised January estimate of $976.2 billion.
The February estimate, released April 1, is 10% below February 2008’s figure of $1,075.3 billion. Construction spending totaled $135.5 billion in the first two months of 2009, 10.9% below the $152 billion for the same period in 2008.
Highway construction this February was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $77.7 billion, 0.5% below the revised January estimate of $78 billion.
First ADOT economic recovery projects advance
An $85 million first round of Arizona highway construction projects to be advanced by federal economic recovery funds was advertised for bids the week of April 6, just two weeks after formal identification by the State Transportation Board.
The 14 initial highway projects, totaling an estimated $85.7 million, are the first of 41 statewide projects that will advance using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.
They include the $43.2 million widening of I-10 from Sarival Avenue to Verrando Way in Maricopa County, the $8.6 million S.R. 87 safety improvements and the $6 million repaving of I-10.
The State Transportation Board approved the prioritized list of shovel-ready projects across the state March 13.
The remaining 27 projects will be advertised in the near future.
All transportation projects funded by ARRA must be completed within three years.
Bridge crossing top priority
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced he is forming a new group to try to speed a decision on where a new bridge across the Detroit River should be placed.
LaHood met with Canadian Transport Minister John Baird the week of March 30, and the two agreed to form the group “to put together a plan for the way forward with the ultimate goal being the construction of a bridge from the United States from Michigan to Canada.”
In an interview with the Detroit News, LaHood spoke of the benefits of the bridge and strongly endorsed the idea of one, but did not say where it should be placed.
In March, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved up to $787 million in private activity bonds for the Detroit International Bridge Co. to build a privately owned second span of the $1 billion Ambassador Bridge.
Pair of bills goes to governor
Two Montana bills ready for Gov. Brian Schweitzer to approve could have major implications for the future of the Milk River and U.S. Highway 2.
Both bills were sponsored by Sen. Ken Hansen (D-Harlem) and easily passed both houses.
Senate Bill 8, which cleared the Legislature April 7, would allow residents and stakeholders along the Milk River to create regional resource authorities.
State Bill 222 would remove language from a 2001 law that prohibits the use of state funds for widening Highway 2.
Hansen said SB8 would allow the creation of a regional authority that would determine how water users would be charged to help pay for the state’s share of the $154 million repair bill, around $38 million, for the St. Mary’s diversion.
The 29-mile-long diversion of dams, canals, street siphons and drops brings water from the St. Mary River Basin to the Milk River Basin. The system has been in operation for more than 85 years with only minor repairs and improvements.
A Schweitzer spokesperson said the governor would review the bills before making a decision on whether to sign them.
AGC recommends safety goal
The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has announced that the U.S. needs to set a goal of cutting work-zone fatalities in half within two years in order to reduce the decade-long trend of 1,000 fatalities and nearly 60,000 injuries on highway construction sites each year.
At the beginning of the 10th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week, AGC CEO Stephen Sandherr said it was time to set national and state-by-state goals to improve safety. He said that setting a two-year goal to cut those fatalities in half would put needed focus on improving work-zone safety as many stimulus-funded projects get under way.
Sandherr acknowledged that state and federal officials have worked hard to improve the safety of U.S. highway construction areas, noting that many states double moving violations near work zones and regularly post law enforcement officials near construction sites. Despite those efforts, he said, almost 60,000 people have been injured in work zones every year for the past decade.
AASHTO launches awareness campaign
The American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has launched a national campaign to build awareness and provide information on the critical needs of our nation’s transportation system.
The campaign, “Are We There Yet? We Can Be!,” intends to be a one-stop shop for current information on the condition of the country’s infrastructure, state examples of successful projects, innovative technology and focused solutions that can be shared with the public, the media, lawmakers and business and community groups.
“Improving our transportation system must be a top priority for all of us, since we are only investing half of what it would take to meet the needs of our nation’s growing population, demand for freight and aging roads, bridges and transit,” said AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley.
The campaign stresses three points: state DOTs are accountable; their projects are community-driven; and their work is performance-based—on time, on budget and using the most innovative technologies.
The campaign website, are?we?there?yet?.transportation?.org, outlines the AASHTO authorization proposals and contains facts about infrastructure as well as other examples and information on issues such as safety, congestion, freight and transit.
Highway gets safety makeover
North Carolina’s U.S. Highway 601, also known as the “Highway of Death,” is undergoing safety improvements.
Construction crews have worked to make the highway safer by widening lanes. They also have flattened steep hills to eliminate the number of valleys and blind spots.
Major intersections now have turning lanes, which double as acceleration and deceleration lanes.
Engineers call it a speedway design for the purpose of entering into traffic traveling around 55 mph, said construction engineer Daniel McElwey.
Since the project’s commencement in 2007, there have been 191 accidents on U.S. 601, including one fatality.
Blythe Construction officials expect to complete the entire widening project by December.
Upcoming excavator to have enhanced efficiency
Doosan Infracore expects to launch a hybrid excavator in North America in 2012. The machine will feature enhanced energy efficiency and lower exhaust emissions and will be equipped with a diesel engine, electric swing motor, electric converter and an ultracapacitor that will store excess energy during turning and light-duty operations.
The reserve electricity will be used to assist the power of the engine during heavier work, allowing the engine to maintain low revolutions and high-efficiency combustion during acceleration. The machine will be a 22-ton model with an approximate 35% reduction in CO2 and fuel consumption when compared with the DX25 standard hydraulic excavator. The increase of fuel efficiency aims to save approximately $10,000 in fuel cost per machine each year.
In the article “Crushing Victory: Orange Crush interchange might have witnessed second world record in less than five years,” in the March 2009 issue of Roads & Bridges, we incorrectly attributed something to the California DOT when it was actually the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). The sentence should have read, “The contract with OCTA called for widening the separation structure at Rte. 22/I-5, a five-span, cast-in-place, prestressed concrete box girder structure, by just over 20 ft to the south to accommodate new HOV lanes.”
We apologize for any confusion caused by the error.
—edited by Tara VanTimmeren