The Department of Transportation, trying to push more infrastructure projects out of the pipeline and into “stimulus summer,” signed a $24.5 million grant agreement to help rebuild a container yard in Honolulu.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the reconstruction project for the Pier 29 Container Yard in Honolulu Harbor, Oahu, “is another example of the Obama Administration’s commitment to modernizing our transportation infrastructure and creating economic opportunities for our maritime community.”
Yet it is just one in a series of efforts the administration is making to highlight and accelerate the economic boon that comes from getting long-awaited projects off the drawing boards to tap last year’s stimulus funding.
That can create more construction jobs and help foster local or regional commercial activity, at a time when many observers fear the recovery could be stalling.
Earlier, LaHood said the DOT has been prodding a number of states’ governors to implement projects faster and tap the money approved in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
His department through June 30 had paid out to states more than $14.7 billion for completed projects, most of which are highway related. It pushed more than $1.1 billion out to states just in the last three weeks of June, from a payout total of less than $13.6 billion on June 11.
In all, DOT has up to $48 billion to spend on stimulus work, and while its spending is projected to peak in 2010 some DOT reimbursements under the ARRA will go on for years longer.
Some work yet to be started with ARRA grants is major infrastructure such as bridges, highways, and intercity rail investments to increase passenger train service. The grant for the container yard, to the Hawaii State Department of Transportation Harbors Division, came from a multi-modal account under the stimulus law that gave the DOT broader discretion than normal in how to choose worthwhile projects.
But smaller projects are also getting the DOT’s attention. Last week the Federal Highway Administration said it signed six agreements with the Nebraska Department of Roads that allow dozens of highway projects to commence that require no environmental impact assessments.
Those include such things as replacing road signs or installing new ones, repairing lights and traffic signals, making visual bridge inspections and painting pavement markings.
FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez said “in this economic climate, getting highway projects moving is a top priority.” And small projects such as these, he said, “should be advanced quickly and easily to help improve roads and create jobs.”
The larger port work at Honolulu’s Pier 29 will begin in August, take 15 months to finish and generate immediate construction and related jobs for over 300 people, the DOT said. The improvements to a 12-acre marine cargo area include new pavement, drainage, water, lighting, sewer, fire protection and electrical systems.
“Pier 29 will ultimately shift truck traffic away from highly congested areas to further improve freight efficiencies and air quality,” the DOT said.
-- Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.