Gov. kicks off stimulus-funded projects

May 1, 2009 2:54:58 PM PDT
There has been a lot of talk about "shovel-ready" projects being first in line for economic stimulus dollars. Now, the shovels are hitting the ground in Fairfield, site of the state's first infrastructure project to get going entirely with stimulus money.

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The three-mile stretch of Interstate 80 will be getting a $13.5 million facelift. The re-paving and HOV lane final paving project is the state's first to go from wish-list to reality. The rehabilitation and HOV project would have been delayed without stimulus funds.

"Interstate 80 has been in lousy shape and now we're repaving Interstate 80 and this is the first $13.5 that will be spent from the economic stimulus money," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.

Livermore-based top grade paving won the bid, coming in 40 percent less than Caltrans' estimates. With the project come more than 200 jobs.

"I couldn't be more excited about the opportunity this provides; not only the Top Grade workforce, but the 20 other companies that will be involved," Top Grade Paving spokesperson Brian Gates said.

The state estimates that for every $1 billion spent on road and highway projects, 18,000 jobs are created. California will be spending more than $2.5 billion in stimulus dollars on roads, creating possibly more than 45,000 jobs.

It is a desperately needed shot in the arm for the constructions industry, where unemployment rates are running two and three times the overall rate.

"So next week we're going to be doing a couple more projects, the ball is really rolling now because we've gotten through some of the federal red tape we've had to go through," Caltrans Director Will Kempton said.

Interstate 80 is a 2,900-mile cross-country highway, connecting San Francisco with Teaneck, New Jersey. It follows roughly the same route as America's first road across America, the Lincoln Highway. About 200,000 vehicles use the Bay Area's part of I-80 every day, many of them trucks.

The Fairfield project broke ground Thursday and should be completed in December.

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