Streamlined Permitting Could Help Get State Projects \Shovel Ready\

AGC of Washington praised Gov. Chris Gregoires Washington Jobs Now initiative and offered a suggestion regarding permitting to ensure targeted construction projects are truly shovel ready.

Governor Gregoire correctly targets infrastructure investments with her investment plan said AGC of Washington Executive Vice President David DHondt. These investments will provide good-paying jobs for an industry that has been losing them at a rapid rate. Plus they will improve our overall quality of life. There are repair and congestion relief needs that have been apparent for years. By providing congestion relief in areas such as the 405/520 interchange and repairing areas such as I-90 at the Snoqualmie summit these investments will support commercial activity improve safety and reduce carbon emissions from idling traffic.

Other items on the Washington Jobs Now including water quality and higher education projects will also provide economic as well as quality of life benefits according to DHondt. The package includes other items such as one involving unemployment benefits which AGC is studying and will comment on in the next few days.

DHondt noted that 15400 construction workers have lost their jobs in the state over the last year and a half. This represents a 7.3 percent decline in the construction workforce since the peak employment month of June 2007. The decline in the number of construction jobs is particularly detrimental to the overall economy as Washington State construction workers average annual pay is 5 percent more than the average for all private sector employees.

We look forward to working with the Governor on this important matter said DHondt. As more details emerge in the coming days two issues we will be looking at are the speed with reach these construction projects can be initiated and the transparency of the process to select projects.

DHondt noted that the AGC was instrumental in passing the Transportation Permit Efficiency and Accountability Act in 2001. With the TEPAA process agencies work cooperatively in such a way that the multiple layers of permits that transportation projects require can be addressed concurrently rather than one at a time.

TEPAA is an approach to environmental permitting which enables some transportation projects to move forward efficiently and cost effectively while continuing to assure important environmental protections said DHondt. We believe it is a process that can be used to a much greater extent with regard to all types of public construction and could help ensure that the Washington Jobs Initiative projects are responsibly expedited.

DHondt emphasized that the jobs initiative should retain public confidence in the states decision-making with regard to public construction. AGC and many other groups as well as the State have worked long and hard to keep investment decisions as free from politics as possible he said. The Public Works Trust Fund for example helps ensure that projects are selected for funding based on merit and not political considerations. As we move forward with this initiative we should continue to let need merit and return on investment be the criteria for selecting projects for construction.