Editorial: Stimulating the economy

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 27, 2009

Transportation construction workers in North Carolina are feeling the effects of federal stimulus spending to the tune of millions. Their paychecks won’t fuel a full economic recovery, but every payday helps.
More than 1,000 road constriction workers received $846,018 in payroll from stimulus projects in the month of June, the N.C. Department of Transportation reported recently.
That came on the heels of May, when 625 workers received $382,856 for highway stimulus projects.
Judging by the I-85 work under way in Cabarrus County and other recently announced projects, the money will keep flowing for a while. Blythe Construction has a contract for $3.4 million worth of work on Cabarrus.
This bodes well for the construction workers’ families. They will be able to buy school supplies and clothes for their children this fall. There will be food on the table and money to pay for shelter ó money that would not have been there without the stimulus package.
Every $1 million spent on transportation creates 30 jobs, the Federal Highway Administration estimates. With the N.C. Department of Transportation receiving $735 million for road and bridge projects, that translates into more than 22,000 jobs. They are not permanent jobs; some estimate stimulus transportation spending will peak in the fall. But each one sends a ripple of hope through the economy.
Speaking of hope, the state has not given up in its quest to replace the I-85 bridge over the Yadkin River with federal funds. State DOT head Gene Conti recently met with some of the state’s congressional delegation to discuss the matter. Building new bridges over the river could keep construction workers employed for quite a while ó and replace an obsolete structure on a main north-south transportation corridor. The state’s earlier plan to turn the project over to the Turnpike Authority and put tolls on the bridge satisfied no one. Stimulus money may be the only way to avoid the headaches tolls would bring.