Launch Slideshow

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Early Returns

Early Returns

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    Construction begins this month on a $6.4 million project in Loveland, Colo.; more than half of which will be paid for by stimulus funds. The project involves the relocation of roads situated just 10 feet from interstate on/off ramps, which handle a tractor-trailer every 90 seconds. The nearby ramps are controlled by stop signs. “People mistakenly turn onto the off-ramp going the wrong way when they're trying to get onto the frontage road from Crossroads Boulevard,” says Public Works Director Keith Reester. Photo: City of Loveland, Colo.

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    Have you used, or do you plan to use, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funds to retain an AEC firm this year?

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    Mason, Ohio, was awarded $500,000 through the Ohio EPA's Water Pollution Control Loan Fund to use treated effluent from its wastewater treatment plant to irrigate a city park. “It was a good opportunity to demonstrate conservation and recycling,” says Art Oliver, project coordinator in the public utilities department. Photo: City of Mason, Ohio

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    The big fourThe extra funding available for infrastructure through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has had an impact on the type of projects using AEC firms.

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    Predictable slowdownUse of AEC firms declines after an overall nationwide drop in property and sales tax revenues.

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    Intended purposeSo far, the two sectors most targeted by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 are benefiting the most, according to our fifth annual survey of the use of AEC firms , and construction firms.

“It's too early to tell if the public sector is specifying certain products over others,” she adds. “Some cities are stretching their recovery dollars by buying the most affordable products, and others are trying to invest those dollars in smarter spending, even if it means buying more expensive products.”

Whether it's because of the legislation's focus on sustainability or contractors working harder to incorporate sustainable practices, pavement-preservation products are in greater demand.

“Agencies that never considered rejuvenators are perking up at the idea of extending out their lifecycle service by 5 to 7 years with rejuvenators before the use of wear course seals,” says Jim Brownridge, marketing manager for Tricor Refining, which makes Reclamite pavement rejuvenator. “Here in California, Caltrans is focusing on green projects and the use of cold-in-place recycling.”

Sustainable projects don't stop at pavement, though. The Cincinnati suburb of Mason, Ohio, expects to save more than $10,000 annually to irrigate a 35-acre sports park by installing 2,000 feet of pipeline through which treated effluent from the adjacent 5-mgd wastewater treatment plant will be pumped. “The stimulus funding has accelerated our pace,” says Art Oliver, project coordinator in the public utilities department. “This project would have been a year or two off, but now it'll be completed next year.”

He believes his project proves the legislation is working as intended. “Obviously, some of the money will be used to purchase materials that otherwise wouldn't have been purchased,” he says.

Not everyone sees it that way, though. Some criticize the Obama administration for doing little to help small manufacturers, while others are frustrated by the consequences of the legislation's tight deadlines.

“I've seen jobs getting rushed to bid. Drawings aren't fully complete and there are a lot of holes in the plan,” says Lee Disbury, vice president of Coral Steel & Supply in West Palm Beach, Fla., a fabricated reinforcing steel provider that largely supplies concrete infrastructure projects.

“Other projects have been in the works for some time, but they're small,” he explains. “Whatever does dribble into our local and regional economies, the true impact is minimal compared to the scale of the issues. There's only half of the work there used to be, and contractors are taking advantage of the situation by bidding really low just to get work.

“The governments writing those contracts are doing a disservice to the industry as a whole because they're awarding jobs to some people who are just plain unqualified.”

He blames the difficult-to-understand application and reporting requirements. “Part of the problem is that there's pressure to obtain and utilize this stimulus money, and governments are doing things they wouldn't normally do,” he says. “You wonder where some of the checks and balances went.”

Need to find a firm to complete one of your projects? To help you get started, the editors of PUBLIC WORKS have compiled a list of leading AEC firms that do work in the public sector. To qualify for the list, participating firms provided company data, revenue, project details, and areas of expertise in an exclusive survey. See page 26.