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Va. DOT chief says there are “incredible” opportunities in post-recession economy

By John D. Schulz, Contributing Editor
June 10, 2010

ARLINGTON, Va.—Scarce federal resources are forcing states to leverage the limited funds available for freight projects and need to be more creative in the manner in which those funds are distributed, Virginia’s transportation secretary says.
But he says there are bargain rates out there for states which are nimble enough to get infrastructure projects off the drawing board while road builders are still hungry for business.
“This is the time for us to invest in infrastructure—but the costs are amazing. Bids are coming in about two-thirds what we thought (things would cost),” said Sean Connaughton, Virginia’s transportation secretary

“Competition for infrastructure projects is incredible. We’re trying to speed up ways to put money out there on the street.”
Virginia is looking for a “long-term, sustainable” source of funding for transportation projects. But until then, creativity wins the day, he said.
“We’re trying to leverage the limited state and federal resources we have,” said Connaughton, Virginia’s transportation secretary since the first of the year when new Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell entered office.
Connaughton said he recently met with truckers along the north-south Interstate 81 corridor, a major freight lane, and said they have a unique nickname for the often-congested Capital Beltway around the nation’s capital.
“Truckers say they refer to this area (Washington, D.C.) as the big black hole, the congestion in this area,” Connaughton said.

Freight is being diverted from truck to rail because of that congestion. Freight railroads soon will be able to run double-stack trains from the port of Norfolk, Va., to the freight Mecca of the Chicago area.

“These are challenging times,” Connaughton said. “But there are great opportunities out there.”

About the Author

John D. Schulz
Contributing Editor

John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. He is known to own the fattest Rolodex in the business, and is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis. This wise Washington owl has performed and produced at some of the highest levels of journalism in his 40-year career, mostly as a Washington newsman.

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