Brooke Wisdom

December 1, 2010

A day at the quarry

By Tina Grady Barbaccia, News and Digital Editor

More than 50 Helm Group (Conmat Inc.) volunteers helped Freeport, Ill.-based Dwyer Quarry put on its second annual Quarry Day on Sept. 18. The event is designed to provide kids with a “fun-filled introduction to the construction industry,” according to the Helm Group. Activities at the Quarry Day included mixing concrete, building a brick wall, and panning for “fool’s” gold, as well as shooting sling shots and throwing rocks at targets, playing quarry golf (with lots of sand), and testing skills for climbing walls.

The biggest attraction, though, the operation noted, was getting up close and personal with heavy construction equipment. Nearly a dozen pieces of construction equipment ranging from bulldozers to loaders and backhoes were on hand. Rockford, Ill., area equipment dealers Westside Tractor Sales, Patten Tractor, and McCallister Equipment Company supplied the equipment for the day, along with the Helm Group’s Heavy Equipment Services.

MSHA, UMWACC use Grant to fund mine rescue team training

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has signed a cooperative agreement with the United Mine Workers of America Career Centers Inc. (UMWACC), in which the UMWACC will receive $1.45 million to develop classroom and simulated rescue training programs for mine rescue teams.

“The UMWACC and MSHA have continued a close working relationship through various contracts and cooperative agreements established in September 2008 and 2009,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The partnership has developed successful training programs and competitions for mine rescue teams and first responders.”

Gregory R. Wagner, MSHA’s deputy assistant secretary for policy, notes that the Sago, Aracoma, and Darby mine disasters of 2006 indicated the need to better train and prepare mine rescue teams to effectively respond to mine emergencies at underground coal mines. “One of the best methods for preparing miners to respond to an emergency is through simulated mine emergency training,” said Wagner in a written statement.

The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, signed in the wake of these high-profile disasters, called for enhancing mine rescue teams and the development of up-to-date accident response plans.

Under the cooperative agreement, training may be conducted in classrooms, mine simulation lab facilities or, where possible, at mine sites with mine personnel. While distance learning is not excluded from the options, the focus of the program will be on training in real and simulated mine conditions.

Training likely will be conducted at the following locations: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Pittsburgh Research Laboratory in Bruceton, Pa.; the National Mine Health and Safety Academy Mine Simulation Laboratory in Beaver, W.Va.; and the Mining Technology and Training Center in Ruff Creek, Pa.

TIGER II requests top $19 billion

Forty-two capital construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states will share nearly $600 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) popular TIGER II program for major infrastructure projects ranging from highways and bridges to transit, rail, and ports, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood recently announced.

Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II received nearly 1,000 construction grant applications for more than $19 billion from all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia.

The tremendous demand for TIGER II project dollars follows a similar demand for TIGER I project dollars. On Feb. 17, 2009, the U.S. DOT announced 51 grant awards from nearly 1,500 applications for TIGER I grants nationwide. The TIGER I requests were for almost $60 billion worth of projects, 40 times the $1.5 billion available under that program. TIGER I dollars were made available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“These are innovative, 21st century projects that will change the U.S. transportation landscape by strengthening the economy and creating jobs, reducing gridlock and providing safe, affordable, and environmentally sustainable transportation choices,” said Secretary LaHood. “Many of these projects could not have been funded without this program.”

Roughly 29 percent of TIGER II money goes for road projects, 26 percent for transit, 20 percent for rail projects, 16 percent for ports, 4 percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and 5 percent for planning projects.

Examples of projects funded include the following:

• $47.6 million to the city of Atlanta to construct a new streetcar line connecting many of the most important downtown residential, cultural, educational, and historic centers.

• $20 million to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to replace the deteriorating Memorial Bridge that connects Portsmouth, N.H., with Kittery, Maine. The bridge is at the end of its service life and has a bridge sufficiency rating of six out of 100. Safety concerns recently required a maximum 3-ton weight restriction on the bridge, causing all truck traffic to be detoured. 

• $546 million for a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line, a key piece of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 30/10 initiative to construct 12 major transit projects in 10 years rather than 30.

Under TIGER II, more than $140 million is reserved for projects in rural areas.

As a competitive program, TIGER II is able to fund the best projects from around the country.  Using merit-based evaluation criteria allows the Department of Transportation to address some of the nation’s most critical challenges like sustainability and economic competitiveness.

This marks the first time that the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have joined together in awarding grants for localized planning activities that, ultimately, lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing, and urban development. 

On Labor Day, President Barack Obama revealed plans for a comprehensive infrastructure investment plan that would be front-loaded with $50 billion for infrastructure investment. (See the October 2010 Aggregates Manager Digital Edition article, “Is Obama’s $50 billion infrastructure plan just a shot of adrenaline?” at

TIGER II grants were awarded to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region, or metropolitan area. The U.S. DOT also gave priority to projects that are expected to create and preserve jobs quickly and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity.

Oberstar ousted, Chip Cravaak takes over

It looks like it’s out with the old and in with the new.

After serving 18 terms, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sen. James “Jim” Oberstar (D-Minn.) has lost to Republican Chip Cravaack. Oberstar lost by just more than 4,000 votes, according to a report.

Oberstar becomes the third chairman to be ousted from office, joining Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt of South Carolina and Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton of Missouri, reports. For more, go to or

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