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Steve Burns: Stimulus Gives Laid Off Worker a Second Chance
For Steve Burns, the shock of being laid off was compounded by the fact that he had been at his previous job at a major national insurance company for 28 years.
"I got called into the office and they said we've eliminated your position," he says. "They walked me to my locker like I was a criminal. I was too shocked to be upset." Burns began looking for work. His age he says - he is currently 54 -put him at a disadvantage. "I thought I'd retire from my old job," he says. "I was too old to start this all over again."
Burns found some part time work driving a truck but as the father of two kids he needed a steady, full time job. "I was looking for a full time job for two years," he says. "There was nothing out there."
Then he heard about the $10.2 million stimulus project to upgrade the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line.
He interviewed for a job as a track man on the railroad and he soon found out he got it.
"It was like hitting the lottery," he says. "I'm very happy."
Massachusetts has set itself apart by choosing to fund transportation projects that will have both short and long term economic impacts -- and investing in projects like the regional transit center, multi-use paths or park and ride lots that build stronger, healthier communities. The state has also focused particularly in the second round of funding, on projects that will result in direct investment by the private sector.
In total, Massachusetts will invest $437.9 million in Recovery funds for highway and bridge projects, and another $319 million for projects to improve transit systems throughout the state. Once advertised, ARRA road and bridge projects are moving faster than ever before. For example, MassHighway took a 120-day advertising/bid/contract award process and reduced it to 44 days.
As of December 31st, 66 highway projects were in the pipeline with a construction value of more than $253 million. Of those 66 projects, 45 contracts have been awarded with a total dollar value of $203.4 million and $34 million has been spent on those projects. More than 4,100 people are working on ARRA stimulus road and bridge projects throughout the state. In addition to repairing and repaving roads in every corner of the Commonwealth, we are using stimulus funds to spark economic development and long term job growth. For example, the state investing $15 million of stimulus funding to support critical infrastructure road, bike, and pedestrian improvements in the Assembly Square economic development project in Somerville. We are also spending $35 million on Exit 8 ½ in Fall River/Freetown to support economic growth in that important region.
At the MBTA, in just the first few months since the initial $164 million of ARRA funding was approved, 108 new RIDE vans are in operation, Silver Line service has been extended to South Station, the first of the hybrid buses are on the assembly line, and work is underway on 17 projects. As of December 15, the MBTA has entered into commitments (i.e., contracts, material and equipment purchase orders) for over $62 million, and has hired 38 "temporary special project" employees from local union halls to initiate the work. Given the nature of the rail, bridge and commuter rail station work, construction activity and spending will accelerate after the winter months.