WaPo Finds Stimulus Bucks Going Further

The Washington Post has a piece of good news (really!) on its front page today: We’re going to get more bang for our stimulus buck.

Construction firms, last seen building white elephant condo towers and strip malls, lately sitting on their hands, are eager for the work. They’re bidding against each other and driving down project prices at the same time materials prices are falling because of weak demand. And instead of constructing things that are destructive of the economy, these projects (many of them anyway) will help it in the long run. Would that more of the stimulus package was, you know, allotted to actually building stuff.

The savings are considerable:

At Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, a recent project to reconstruct the area around Piers C and D received six bids instead of the usual two or three. The result: The estimated $50 million project will be built for $8 million less than was budgeted, and the savings will be allocated to other projects. There were 21 bidders for a $200,000 drainage project in Carroll County, more than anyone could remember.

“Our bottom line is more bidders and better prices,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari. “This we like.”

This means more projects and more people put to work.

“Wherever I go, I hear of projects that used to attract two to three bids just a couple of years ago, now it’s 20 or 30,” Simonson said. “Many [contractors] are coming down on the minimum size of projects they will bid on, and ones who didn’t do schools now are bidding on schools. Others are coming from out of state to a new region just to keep busy. And they are essentially giving away their services just to keep their key employees busy.”

Good pickup by the Post.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.