Construction News Tracker Video: Lending Standards Begin to Ease

  • Illinois highway fund audit has shocking result
  • April housing starts index corrected
  • Bank lending standards eased
  • Bay Bridge bolts inspection ordered

That and more on Construction News Tracker brought to you by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com

The Auditor General of Illinois claims that less than 50% of the funds spent on state roads in the last two years went to direct construction costs. Instead, most of the money went to pay bonds, staff salaries, pensions and other non-construction costs, even though the primary fund is supposed to be for IDOT projects. In fact, in eight of the last 10 fiscal years less than half of the money went directly to construction. It makes us wonder what audits of 49 other states would discover.

U.S. housing starts fell 16.5% in April to an 853,000 unit pace. The plunge was driven largely by a market correction in March's unsustainably high multi-family housing production. The National Association of Home Builders remains optimistic about the market, though, noting that housing permits issued in April rose 14.3% to a greater than one million unit pace.

April Housing Starts Slip with Multifamily Correction

Despite plenty of challenges facing construction, one area appears to be easing, and that is bank lending. The Federal Reserve claims that as competition intensifies and loan demands grow, commercial business lending shows growth as a result of the Fed's bond buying program begins to trickle down into the economy and should continue; though the outlook for household lending continues mixed.

Following a March executive order to boost infrastructure, President Obama has signed an order setting up a federal inter-agency steering committee aimed at speeding federal permitting for construction to boost job creation and local economies by shaving review times and bureaucratic red tape.

President to Halve Project Approval Timelines

In line with this, a new Congressional Budget Office report claims the Highway Trust Fund would gain six more years of solvency under the Obama budget plan compared with current policy and would not become insolvent until 2021 if the use of war fund savings were transferred to the highway fund as the President proposes.

$475 million in reconstruction money has been released by the U.S. Interior Department for repairs resulting from Superstorm Sandy along the East Coast last fall. The agency has 234 projects cited such as parks and other facilities, among them the Statue of Liberty which they hope can be reopened by July 4th.

ForConstructionPros' recent poll asked you to pinpoint your biggest business concerns in 2013, and this how you responded in three words:

  • Taxes and Healthcare
  • Too much Government
  • Taxes, EPA, Obamacare
  • Low Marginal Returns
  • Barack Hussien Obama
  • OBAMMACARE, Taxes, Economy

It appears the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge will not be open by Memorial Day as planned. That's due to a full scale investigation by the Federal Highway Administration into faulty bolts used that have broken because hydrogen penetrated the steel and caused them to be brittle. The process begun by CALTrans in 2008 was designed to control the new bridge deck during an earthquake. Metro Transportation Commission chair Amy Rein Worth told local KPIX-TV it's a complicated process.

Recent inspection also discovered over 400 bolts in the Bay Bridge tower are vulnerable to cracking as well. Top engineers have been assigned on a 24/7 basis to find a solution to the critical problem. 

If you're looking for work, here's a list of the top 10 states with the largest job increases in the last year according to the U.S. Department of Labor:

  • North Dakota
  • Alaska
  • Utah
  • Wyoming
  • California
  • Arizona
  • Louisiana
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Massachusetts

And the states with the most job losses are:

  • Illinois
  • Alabama
  • Rhode Island
  • North Carolina
  • New Mexico
  • Georgie
  • Montana
  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • Nevada

And we close on this note: "Don't become irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced you can't be promoted."

This is Construction News Tracker watching out for the industry that makes the world a better place. Brought to you by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com. You can reach us anytime on Facebook or at Twitter where you can leave a comment or share us with your friends using #constructionnews.

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