June 2009 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
Alaska Railroad officials say they are gearing up for a busy gravel-hauling season. According to the Alaska Journal of Commerce, the railroad expects to haul 2.5 million tons of gravel from three different locations in the Mat-Su Valley to the yard at Alaska Sand and Gravel. The railroad hauls for three clients – Eklutna Inc., Quality Asphalt Paving, and Wilder Construction – but also uses gravel for its purposes, such as using ballast to balance loads and car configurations. In 2008, the railroad hauled 2.8 million tons of gravel, but has averaged as much as 4 million tons in previous years with busy construction seasons.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will spend $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars on water infrastructure projects, The Arizona Republic reports. The goal of the investment is to upgrade outdated water-delivery systems and improve wildlife habitat on rivers. According to the newspaper, $108 million will be spent on the lower Colorado River with funds going toward irrigation projects, repair and replacement of water-delivery components such as a storage reservoir, drainage systems, and riparian and marsh conservation areas.
California has committed more than $234 million to Bay Area transportation projects, according to the San Francisco Business Times. The funds, part of the first wave of stimulus monies to impact area infrastructure projects, will go toward a range of local projects that are designed to renovate existing thoroughfares. The vast majority, however, will go toward boring the fourth passageway in the Caldecott Tunnel, which connects Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The funds are part of more than $1 billion in stimulus cash earmarked for 80 transportation infrastructure projects around the state. The state expects to net nearly $2.6 billion to fix highways and streets and another $1 billion for transit projects.
To expedite construction projects in the state’s notoriously short construction season, the Connecticut Department of Transportation announced a three-day evaluation process for the review of approximately 80 local projects funded via federal stimulus dollars. “If this work can be concentrated during this season, then you will see significant job creation,” Donald Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association told The Hartford Courant. “If we’re talking October, November, then you will still see high unemployment.” For each project, local communities must hire inspectors, meet affirmative-action and disadvantaged-business requirements, satisfy state and federal design specifications, solicit public input, and pass an environmental review. The state received $302 million in stimulus money for highway, street, and bridge projects. Approximately $90 million of that is expected to be distributed to the local projects.
Approximately $246 million in state stimulus dollars are budgeted for two dozen highway, airport, and transit projects that are expected to support as many as 3,200 jobs, Pacific Business News reports. “The stimulus money is giving everyone some optimism for more work,” said Bill Wilson, president of Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. “We’re doing okay – we’re fortunate to have a variety of work. But the economy is very challenging for everybody and there’s a great deal of uncertainty. [The stimulus] gives us opportunity.” Construction is the third largest industry in the state.
As Plymouth County Commissioners recommend slashing budgets by 20 percent and cutting salaries for other officials, the county found one positive piece of economic news – a signed contract for sand and gravel removal far exceeded commissioner estimates. According to The Patriot Ledger, the bid is valued at approximately $750,000. In the meantime, the county budget is expected to drop from $3.2 million in this fiscal year to $2.5 million in fiscal 2010 if the advisory board accepts commissioner recommendations.
In early May, Gov. Brian Schweitzer signed into law House Bill 678 to revise state laws on gravel pits. Although he signed the legislation, the Associated Press reports that he said he objects to a provision that appears to restrict the public’s right to receive notice and participate in the permitting process of open cut mines – most of which are gravel operations. Schweitzer ordered the state Department of Environmental Quality to implement the bill in a manner that “treats the public notice and public participation requirements of the bill as floors, not ceilings.”
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