WSDOT: Stimulus work on the rise for highway projects

New employment data from state and local highway contractors showed Recovery Act work in Washington state doubled from May to June as more projects get awarded and underway, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced this week. Work to deliver Washington’s recovery act highway projects is shifting into high gear, as $492 million in stimulus funding makes its way off the balance sheet and onto the road.

With more state and local stimulus projects now under construction, contractors have increased their hours worked with payroll and labor hours doubling from May to June. The employment data shows workers on Recovery Act-funded projects logged nearly 58,000 labor hours in June, compared to just under 29,000 hours in May. The average salary of these workers is $38 per hour.

As of July 29, three ARRA highway projects in Washington state are substantially complete. The I-90 Yakima River to west Ellensburg Paving project finished ahead of schedule and on budget. Paving projects in the city of Conconully and in Garfield county are also complete. Washington currently has 106 projects that have been awarded to contractors or currently under construction. A total of 159 projects have been advertised to date.

As a whole, WSDOT has obligated $244.5 million of $344.6 million, with funds now obligated to 33 of 36 individual state projects. Local governments have obligated 84.4% of local funds, or $128.4 million of $152.1 million. Agencies have until March 1, 2010 to obligate the rest.

The Federal Highway Administration provided $492 million for state and local highway projects in Washington state, advancing projects and jobs to address high-priority highway preservation needs and fund low-cost, high-benefit transportation system improvements. According to the American Association of Surface Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), every $1 spent to preserve a road enables agencies to avoid spending $6-$14 to rebuild one that has deteriorated.

Washington state will deliver more highway projects with federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds than first envisioned, thanks to the recent trend toward lower construction bids. Between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, WSDOT awarded 172 contracts, 150 of which came in less than the engineers’ estimate. The average amount below the estimate for these 172 contracts was 17 percent. As of July 27, WSDOT has awarded 26 state stimulus projects worth 128.1 million. In total those projects have come in under the engineer’s estimate by 20 percent. Contractor bids on city and county stimulus projects around the state are also coming in lower than expected, allowing local agencies to deliver an additional $20 million in highway construction projects.