Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Contractors back on the road with highway bill vote - 2005-08-08 - East Bay Business Times

East Bay Business Times - August 8, 200


From the August 5, 2005 print edition

Contractors back on the road with highway bill vote

David Goll

Passage of the long-awaited $286.4 billion transportation funding bill comes "just in the nick of time" for small and midsize Bay Area transportation contractors.

That's the assessment of Bob Brosamer, president of R&L Brosamer Inc., a highway, heavy construction and engineering contracting firm with offices in Alamo and Oakland. He said the two-year delay in federal funding at the same time the state slashed transportation spending to cope with its budget crisis had sounded the death knell for some firms.

"Many companies have gone out of business over the past couple of years," Brosamer said. "But this (federal) bill comes just in the nick of time for a lot of medium-sized firms. Another year of this (funding drought) would have been catastrophic for a lot of them."

The passage of H.R. 3 by the House on July 29 will mean more than $174 million will flow to projects in the greater East Bay.

One of the projects Brosamer's firm has been working on - the widening of congested Highway 4 through fast-growing east Contra Costa County - will gain new life. While a portion of it through Pittsburg is nearing completion, another $36 million will be used to widen the four-lane highway to a total of eight lanes from Loveridge Road in Pittsburg to G Street in Antioch.

The expanded roadway is viewed as a key to further development in east Contra Costa, which has become something of a poster child for jobs-housing imbalance with its thousands of new residential units but scant commercial development because of what many business leaders view as poor transportation access.

Other major appropriations include:

Nearly $17.5 million for reconstruction of the interchange of interstates 80 and 680 and Highway 12 in Solano County.

$15.6 million for carpool lanes along Interstate 580 through the Livermore Valley.
$14 million for a highway linking fast-growing Brentwood in eastern Contra Costa County to Tracy in San Joaquin County.

$3.2 million to upgrade Jepson Parkway at the north and south access gates to Travis Air Force Base and widen Vanden Road in Fairfield.

$3.1 million for reconstruction of the Central Avenue interchange with I-80 in Richmond.
$2 million each for the construction of a new interchange at I-580 and Isabel Avenue, and for the reconstruction and expansion of the I-580 interchange at Vasco Road, both in Livermore.
East Bay commuters who travel to San Francisco will like the $29 million authorized to replace that city's aging Transbay Terminal transit hub, as well as extending Caltrain service from SBC Park to downtown San Francisco.

Brosamer, whose company worked on the expanded I-680/Highway 24 interchange in Walnut Creek and the earthquake retrofit of the I-580/Highway 24 interchange in Oakland, said he definitely plans to bid on the expanded Highway 4 work.

He's pleased the local scene is looking up because during the downturn of the past three years, he increasingly had to look for work in places such as Arizona, where transportation projects were more plentiful.

After California's transportation budget plummeted from $2 billion in fiscal 2003 to $400 million in fiscal 2004, Brosamer said he reduced his firm's reliance on state projects to less than one-quarter of its annual income.

"We are extremely excited this bill has passed," he said. "It certainly increases our opportunities, but it has also done a good job of targeting the worst traffic bottlenecks in the area. The logjam has been broken."

At the national level, the legislative gridlock was caused by political bickering and grandstanding, according to Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a San Francisco-based public policy advocacy group representing 275 of the area's largest employers.

"It was sheer partisan politics in an area where partisan politics don't belong," Wunderman said.

Wunderman said it is impossible to come up with an exact figure, but the economic benefits of the transportation improvements will be significant.

"Transportation is consistently identified as one of the two biggest problems in our region, with the other being housing," he said. "Just the fact our leaders are coming to grips with the area's transportation problems is reason for confidence. It shows the Bay Area is capable of addressing its key challenges."

That goal may be furthered by a decision made by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in May to restore $1.3 billion to the 2005-2006 state budget raised by Proposition 42, a 2002 initiative passed by voters requiring that state sales and use taxes on the sale of motor vehicle fuel be used for public transit and improvements in city, county and state roads. It was removed earlier to help cover the state budget deficit.

Spokesman John Goodwin said officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission - the Oakland-based agency that oversees Bay Area transportation planning and funding disbursement - are happy the two-year wait for Congressional action is over.

"We are quite pleased," Goodwin said. "This represents real money for real projects."

dgoll@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1436

© 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.

All contents of this site © American City Business Journals Inc. All rights reserved.

Solano's Got It!

Solano's Got It!
The Best That Northern California Has To Offer.

Blog Archive