Construction News Tracker Video: Data Points to Slow 2013 Growth

First-quarter reports confirm slow construction growth for 2013; tornado damage repairs to cost millions; Indiana budget cuts slash 4,000 jobs; world's largest tunnel boring machine going to work and more

Disasters to cost millions in repairs . . .

The nations bridge dilemma raising questions . . .

Indiana budget cuts affect thousands of jobs . . .

And Ray LaHood says goodbye . . .

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

A rash of disastrous tornados has caused billions in damage across the nation from Oklahoma eastward. Infrastructure damage alone is expected to create thousands of construction jobs as the recovery effort gets underway. On top of that, an unusually high number of hurricanes is predicted to cause turmoil before the season ends in November.

If all goes according to plan it’s a matter of days from a temporary span being placed over the Skagit River in Washington where an oversized truck hit a support beam last month, and destroyed part of the span. Federal and state officials want to fast-track a permanent replacement for the bridge that carries Interstate-5 traffic between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, costing some $15 million.

Indiana lawmakers have dealt a blow to some major construction projects in the pipeline by refusing to fund them. A $2.6 billion Rockport coal-to-gas plant and a $1.8 billion fertilizer plant already underway will be halted after the Indiana general assembly voted to cut off funding. All told it appears some 4,000 jobs will be lost as a result.

The latest May employment numbers show some progress as 175,000 more jobs were filled last month. Following revised numbers from April, though, unemployment rose to 7.6 percent from 7.5 percent.

Industry economists recently gathered by Reed Construction Data outlined a mixed bag of results for the first quarter of 2013. All agree that growth will continue to be slow the remainder of this year, but the overall picture is far brighter than the slump of 2008 to 2011.

Continued lack of experienced construction workers is part of the problem contractors face in expansion planning. Private-sector jobs in April show better growth than in the public sector, increasing in 170 out of 339 metro areas.

As an example, Pascagoula, MS, added the highest percentage of jobs at 45 percent, followed by Napa and Merced, CA, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles, LA.

The Dallas-Plano-Irving region added the greatest total number of jobs in the past year, followed by Houston-Sugarland-Baytown, TX, the Los Angeles region, Fort Worth, TX, and Phoenix regions.

The most total job losses were in the Chicago area, Northern Virginia, Cincinnati and Raleigh, NC, regions.

The highest percentage of job losses were at Bellingham, WA, Decatur, IL, EauClaire, WI, and Rockford, IL, all from federal labor department reports.

Department of transportation secretary Ray LaHood is packing up his office as he awaits congressional approval of his replacement, Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, NC. As part of the DOT’s “On the Go” video program in recent days, secretary LaHood said goodbye.

It’s likely that a portion of Interstate-74 through Peoria,IL, will soon be named for LaHood, who hails from the city.

“My, what big teeth you have . . . “

That’s about the best way to describe the world’s largest tunneling machine, Big Bertha.

Washington DOT crews began lowering the 838-ton cutterhead into an 80- ft.-deep pit this week for Seattle’s Alaskan Way viaduct-replacement tunnel. Following the cutters, huge slabs of concrete pushed by hydraulic arms will press them together as displaced rock and dirt is removed…it will move at just 30 feet a day.

Once the dig begins in July the tunnel is expected to be completed next year.

With bridges on our mind these days, we take you back to 2007 when a structure over the Mississippi River at Minneapolis collapsed taking 13 lives and injuring many others.

With all legal claims now settled, the state will give away 121 tons of steel as mementos of the disaster. The Minnesota DOT says there’s been plenty of interest by museums and victims’ families. Six months have been set aside for those interested to indicate desire for pieces of the failed bridge.

And we close with this bit of wisdom: applying computer technology is akin to finding the right wrench to pound in the correct screw.

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 Reach us anytime at or on Twitter where you can leave a comment or share us with friends using #ConstructionNews

As the streaming web never ends.