HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- The Montana Department of Transportation has more than $400 million to spend on highway and bridge repair projects this year — work that could create more than 12,000 jobs.
The 2013 Legislature gave the department the authority to spend $438 million in federal and state money this year, agency director Mike Tooley said. About 85 percent of that, or $372 million, will be spent this spring, summer and fall, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.
"Business is booming in Montana," Tooley said. "The Legislature treated us pretty well. They realize the importance of transportation infrastructure investment."
The agency is accepting bids through June 13 for several major projects.
Tooley said the work is expected to generate more than 12,000 jobs based on a federal formula that 27.8 jobs are created by each $1 million spent. Al Ekblad, executive director of the AFL-CIO said he's seen estimates that highway projects in Montana will create 13,500 jobs.
"It's an economic catalyst in Montana, and the jobs are critical to the construction workers, especially in the crafts," Ekblad said.
The jobs are covered by the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires contractors and subcontractors to pay local prevailing wages on public works projects. They also usually offer health insurance and pension benefits, Ekblad said.
Tooley said some of the construction projects help the local economy beyond the jobs the initial work creates.
For example, the recent construction of the Custer Avenue interchange in Helena was a $21 million project that Tooley says has drawn businesses to the area of the interchange, including some businesses that are new to Helena.
As part of its work this summer, the DOT plans to spend $500,000 in both the Missoula and Billings areas to improve the interstate off-ramp signage in an effort to prevent intoxicated drivers from driving onto the interstate in the wrong direction. Both areas of the state have seen fatal crashes due to wrong-way drivers.