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Trenton-Anytime a state has this much money to spend on something, there have to be some political overtones, and that is indeed the case for the $15-billion worth of construction work New Jersey is floating for school construction.

Indeed, the nine contractors that have emerged in pursuit of the work are a who’s who of companies that have been active on the political scene in recent years as campaign contributors. The list also includes the contractor whose name has been linked to the recent auto emissions testing fiasco.

The latter firm is Parsons Brinckerhoff, which last year built new auto-emissions testing facilities for the state. What ensued was more related to the actions of state regulatory officials, but the resulting equipment-related problems, which saw motor vehicle testing lines drastically lengthened rather than shortened, have stigmatized the company’s name in local circles. Parsons, which has made $313,000 in campaign contributions in the last decade, is teaming up with 3D/International of Houston in its sealed bid for school projects.

Other major contractors/campaign contributors vying for pieces of the pie include O’Brien Kreitzberg/URS Corp., based in San Francisco, with regional offices in Trenton; USA Best for New Jersey, a joint venture of Spillis Candela of Newark, Don Todd Associates of Cherry Hill, NJ and Frederic R. Harris of Iselin, NJ in association with Arthur Andersen; and Morse Diesel International of New York and Lawrenceville, NJ.

Also bidding are the Integral Building Group of Atlanta, teaming with Pricewaterhouse-Coopers; Bovis Lend-Lease Inc., which has local offices in Princeton; Jacobs/EPIC, with offices in Piscataway, and Edison, NJ; Heery International of Newark; and the New Schools Advisory Team, which combines Hill International of Willingboro, NJ, Heningburg-Fleming of Newark, and Louis Berger of East Orange, NJ.

The bids are scheduled to be released early next month, according to John Torek of the Torek Group, which helped the state write the rules for spending the $15 billion. The first bid to be awarded, according to Torek, will be program manager, the company that will bring all of the other participants into place.

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