Daily Dirt

South Florida’s Ports Keep Eye On Infrastructure Legislation

South Florida’s ports and the Florida Ports Council are all keeping an eye on key legislative issues this session, including funding for infrastructure.

Port of Miami Director Bill Johnson, selected to chair legislative issues on behalf of Florida’s 14 ports, said a key issue is “the ability to nail down or secure state dollars for infrastructure.”

Johnson said the state’s major ports are also trying to secure $25 million in grants that would provide dedicated funding to help pay for certain infrastructure projects such as drainage.

The ports want legislation that would increase Florida’s statutory minimum investment in seaports from $8 million to $15 million, which has actually been appropriated by the legislature since 2004, according to an e-mail from Florida Ports Council executive vice president Nancy J. Leikauf.

In addition, Broward’s Port Everglades is looking for money to build a facility to store and transport crushed rock and other bulk products used in the cement and ready-mix concrete industry, port spokeswoman Ellen Kennedy wrote in an e-mail. The port also wants $21.9 million authorized to construct a bypass road.

The Multiplier Effect

How many workers does it take to install a light in Orem, Utah?

One hundred.

At least that was the number city officials submitted in a survey to Congress by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The federal government’s economic stimulus plan is being credited with creating 100 jobs for one traffic light in Orem.

The Deseret News reports city officials submitted the numbers in a U.S. Conference of Mayors survey to Congress. It listed “shovel ready” infrastructure projects from cities across the nation, including the cost of each project and the number of new jobs it would create.

Initial estimates that up to 1.5 million new jobs may be created during the massive stimulus recovery impressed many in Congress and gave more weight to proponents already swinging with momentum to act quickly. The White House projected 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010.

But a closer look into one Utah city’s new-job estimates could make both the organization and White House’s ballpark figures look more optimistic than realistic.

No matter how the numbers are computed — two groups of 50, 10 groups of 10, or five score — Orem engineers said each newly installed traffic signal would create 100 new jobs.

Orem officials say they used a multiplier effect to decide how many jobs come from installing a traffic light. The jobs include the manufacturer, the construction crew, the people who sell the equipment, etc. Apparently that means all nine of Orem’s needed traffic lights could create 900 jobs.

The newspaper reports Orem listed more jobs for each of its traffic signals than any other city in the nation.

Besides large job-number inconsistencies, the report to Congress shows broad price differences, too.

A few cities in Arizona and a handful of other states estimated single traffic lights at $500,000 or higher. That is a high price, but “not an unusual one,” according to Adan Carillo, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman. Carillo noted that each light comes with its own unique — and sometimes expensive — problems.

But U.S. cities in the report overwhelmingly estimated single signals around $200,000 each.

Each of Orem’s nine traffic-signal projects came with the same $500,000 price tag in the report — even the signal at 400 North and 800 East, which was listed in the city’s current budget as costing $200,000.

“They probably just put a standard number to all of them,” Jim Reams, city administrator, said about the $300,000 difference. “We would only (spend) whatever it cost. We wouldn’t have taken extra money for it. We were just being cautious, making sure it was covered.”

In an earlier draft of the U.S. Conference of Mayors report, Orem requested $20 million each for Jim Reams Memorial and Richard Manning Memorial streets — perhaps indicating that the city didn’t take the stimulus requests seriously. The streets, named after Reams and Orem’s assistant city administrator, do not exist. A city employee laughed when asked about the streets, which were pulled from the final report.

The City of Provo says building a new $25 million recreation center would only create 40 jobs.

Greg Sitek

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