Last Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that state construction bids were coming in at a furious pace with lower than expected price tags. State Transportation Departments from Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and Connecticut reported millions of dollars in unexpected savings.
On Monday, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials said that desperate construction firms were submitting project bids 15 to 30 percent lower than anticipated. Missouri officials said they will save nearly $16 billion, over a dozen transportation projects, due to a significant decline in building materials and labor costs.
“We are seeing pretty steep drops in privately funded and state- and local- funded projects, so stimulus is probably the only game in town for some contractors – or the only game within a hundred miles of the town they’ve been in,” Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, told Dow Jones in a report.
To commemorate the 200th transportation project under the stimulus bill, President Barack Obama spoke at the U.S. Transportation Department’s headquarters to weigh in on the sixth week of Recovery Act-funded projects.
“I am proud to utter the two rarest phrases in the English language – projects are being approved ahead of schedule and they are coming in under budget,” President Obama said.
On a similar note, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials announced that John Porcari, Secretary of Maryland DOT is President Barack Obama’s choice for the next Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. “John Porcari brings tremendous talent and experience to this extremely important and influential Administration position,” said AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley. Mr. Porcari would serve under U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican Congressman from Illinois.
But things were not so sunny in other parts of the transportation world. In New York, the transportation commissioner, Astrid Glynn, is quitting, multiple sources confirmed. There is some confusion over the terms of her departure, if she’s being forced out or leaving of her own volition.
“Commissioner Glynn has led the Department of Transportation’s efforts to put together the first comprehensive rail plan for New York State in more than 20 years and has played an important role in securing stimulus money for vital transportation projects across the state of New York,” Mr. Paterson said in a statement.
Ms. Glynn will stay in the position until May 8, at which time Stanley Gee, Glynn’s first deputy commissioner, is expected to take over as acting commissioner, the New York Daily News reports.