Construction News Tracker Video: Federal Budget Approved

A federal budget bill approved...

The jobs picture brightens...barely...

Volvo makes pre-holiday deals...

Louisiana petro plant shelved...

And a way to play with big boy toys...

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

A federal budget deal has been reached by Congress. In a rare show of political cooperation, though economic hurdles remain in the new year.

Four Things Contractors Should Like about the New US Federal Budget

Construction jobs reached their highest level since August 2009 with 17,000 added in November. That still leaves the unemployment rate at 8.6 percent, nearly two million jobs shy of the record in 2006. Overall, according to AGC, construction gained 178,000 jobs in the past year, which means the industry lost 282,000 workers in the same time period. The jobs base could expand by 300,000 next year if the workforce were available.

Volvo Construction Equipment has opened its holiday checkbook with the $160 million purchase of Terex hauler line of equipment. The acquisition includes five ridgid hauler models and three articulated haulers, all used in the off-highway or mining fields. Five hundred jobs go along with the transaction which will see the Terex name used for an interim time period. Within days the company announced the sale of Volvo Rents to the Platinum Equity Group for $1.1 billion. Platinum already owns Maxim Crane and Nesco.

Shell Oil has canceled plans to build a massive natural gas to diesel plant at Ascention Parish, Louisiana. The net result is a loss of thousands of prospective construction and plant jobs. Shell said its project cost jumped from $12.5 to over $20 billion, far too much to consider. 

Look for another tolled expressway to soon join the heavy traveled corridor of Northern Illinois/Indiana. An Indiana regional plan commission has given its blessing to the proposed 47-mile Illiana expressway that would join Interstates 65 and 57 in the Illinois/Indiana northern counties to offer relief to an already high traffic area. More importantly, it would create 9,000 construction jobs.

Indiana Planners Sign Off on Illiana Corridor

The EPA is offering $2 million to help construction equipment owners retrofit or replace older diesel engines - part of the 2008 Emission Reduction Act aimed at reducing pollution and improving air quality. Since the program began, $500 million has been spent to repower 50,000 vehicles to meet present day standards. Applications are being taken until January 15th. Information is available at epa.gov/cleandiesel/dera-rebate-construction.

A northern Wisconsin lawmaker is proposing that drivers be banned from using cell phones in construction zones. Badger state senator Jerry Petrowski of Marathon is seeking co-sponsors for the idea that would impose fines of $20 to $40 for a first offense. It's needed, he says, to protect construction workers and reduce distracted driving. Wisconsin already bans texting while driving.

So you're out of ideas to satisfy someone with a need to play with big boy toys. Look no further than Extreme Sandbox in Hastings, Minn. The recreational heavy equipment company has developed a program for you to operate heavy equipment in a safe environment. It was Randy Stenger's idea. Armed with five pieces of Cat equipment from local dealer Zieglet Cat, the 10-acre Extreme Sandbox sells customers the chance to experience the thrill of heavy equipment operation. This too can be your gratifying experience, and you can find it at extremesandbox.com.

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