Transportation bill will help local companies

A $120 billion transportation package Congress approved Friday, which President Obama said he would sign, is good news for paving contractors and other infrastructure firms.

The legislation renews the formula by which the federal government contributes to spending for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects until October 2014. The federal government disperses funds to state and local governments, which then determine which transportation projects are approved.

"From what I understand, the construction industry supports the bill," said Knife River's Southern Oregon President Mike Crennen. "It provides certainty with funding through fiscal year 2014, which is way better than continuing extensions. However, funding levels are flat, which means no new jobs, but it will certainly save jobs. Given the fiscal environment and political gridlock, this bill is the best we can hope for."

Congressional leaders reached tentative agreement earlier this week, agreeing to maintain current federal transportation levels for 27 months, after Republicans agreed to drop approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The House approved the 599-page bill by a 373-52 vote, and the Senate passed it 74-19.

Road, bridge and other transportation projects have been relatively sparse in the region in recent years. However, Southern Oregon and Northern California got a boost earlier this month when a $7.09 million federal grant toward a $9.49 million railroad improvement project was approved.

Crennen said Knife River's major efforts this summer are a $10 million project for the Medford airport, a $3 million paving project on Highway 39 in the Klamath Basin and a $3 million paving project on Interstate 5 on Canyon Mountain.

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