Sunday, January 25, 2009

VA Transportation: Obama Plan Gives Hope

After years of confused and obstinate inaction by the Republican House of Delegates on workable transportation funding, Virginia looks to President Obama.

Road-work industry in Va. on fumes

The industry that builds and maintains Virginia's roads and bridges has come to a near-standstill and is counting on a jump-start from the president.

The quarries that provide stone for asphalt and concrete have laid off employees and closed some operations.

Paving companies are waiting to bid on state highway maintenance work so they can determine how many employees they can afford to call back in the spring from seasonal layoffs that were deeper than usual.

And companies that build and repair highway bridges are cutting back crews because they don't have the work to support them.

Everyone is waiting for the economic stimulus package that President Barack Obama has promised for rebuilding public infrastructure. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine expects the impact to be substantial in Virginia -- at least $700 million.

"The only thing we can hope is that something comes out of the stimulus package," said Phillip Burleigh, owner of Burleigh Construction Co. Inc., a bridge construction firm in Campbell County that has cut its work force by 40 percent. "If it doesn't, I'm not sure some companies will be able to survive."

The construction industry that builds and maintains Virginia's infrastructure has been hit from all sides by the recession. Work has disappeared in the struggling sector of housing and commercial development, and the state has made deep cuts in highway construction because it can't afford to maintain the roads it already owns.

"We're in a situation we've never been before, where both of your two main markets have gone in the tank," said Richard J. Schreck, executive vice president of the Virginia Asphalt Association, which represents almost three dozen asphalt producers in the state. "We've got producers who are bidding driveways right now."

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