Jan. 31, 2002
A special publication of
Contractors lick their chops
over transportation projects
By BENJAMIN MINNICK
Journal Construction Editor
Just as contractors are struggling with the recession -- McCarthy closed its Seattle-area office in late November and Construction Associates recently announced it's closing its doors -- a ray of hope is coming from Olympia.
Image by Ron Lloyd Associates, Courtesy of
Seattle Public Library
Gov. Gary Locke has put transportation at the top of his list for the 2002 legislative session. Locke is proposing an $8.5 billion statewide construction program that would be a huge boost to Washington's construction industry.
The Legislature is wrestling with a $16 billion plan that would allow King, Pierce and Snohomish counties to join together to build regional mega-projects by augmenting state transportation dollars with local taxes. Most lawmakers have indicated that state funds alone will not be enough to pay for the regional mega-projects, which include work on Interstates 5 and 405, state Routes 167 and 522, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle.
Some sort of transportation plan will be good news for contractors because a McGraw-Hill Construction Information Group economist recently predicted construction would be flat nationally in 2002, but Washington state should expect a 7 percent contraction, from $11.4 billion to $10.6 billion.
Looking back at 2001, several of the state's top public works projects have what it takes to become landmarks -- like the $159 million Seattle Central Library designed by noted architect Rem Koolhaas and an extensive $125 million face lift for the old Seattle Opera House.
The largest public project awarded in 2001 was the $211 million expansion at Sea-Tac Airport. Other prominent projects include the $150 million federal courthouse in downtown Seattle and the $72 million City Hall that is part of a new civic campus for the city of Seattle.
In past editions of the Journal's Top Public Construction Projects, education projects had been the big standouts, at least in sheer numbers. Now, there appears to be a shift toward infrastructure-related projects -- half of the top 20 hard bid projects were infrastructure.
If Locke and the Legislature -- and perhaps voters -- can agree on a transportation plan, more transportation-related projects will be in store for Washingtonians.
-- Benjamin Minnick, Aaron Schab, Lina Korsmo and David Wise edited this special section.