Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
Less than a week after Associated Builders and Contractors along with other industry trade groups filed suit against OSHA on reporting rules, the agency has done an about face. The new anti-retaliatory injury reporting rules set to take effect August 1 have been pushed back to November 1 after construction leaders cried foul. The anti-retaliatory section requiring all post accident drug and alcohol testing will now see additional education and outreach to show that such substance abuse directly contributed to the event.
A rise of 1.1% in construction materials prices between May and June is creating smaller profit margins for contractors. That's the word from ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. Despite overall costs still 2.5% below those of June 2015, increased labor costs died with materials could result in developers speeding up project plans to minimize any impact.
Tie this in with the Dodge Momentum Index for June that shows an 11% surge in new building activity and one can almost see a healthy pattern taking place — with hotel construction leading the way. However, when the Dodge data is segmented the value of construction starts between May and June drops 7%. The fall in June starts resulted in a Dodge Index drop from 135 to 126, most attributed to continued volatility in large projects.
The nation's housing market continues to boom as residential starts jumped 4.8% in June to an annualized rate of $1.19 million — the most since February. And Americans bought more homes in June at 5.57 million — the best rate since February of 2007. New housing continues high in the West for regional rankings at a score of 69 followed by the South, Midwest and Northeast trailing at 39.
Innovation continues to come from Caterpillar's marketing and digital division. Using productivity enhancing technology, Cat is able to demonstrate that they can cut a project's time by 50% when utilizing the right technology and equipment. As the idea gains ground, Cat applies its jobsite solutions, an in house experience, to actually run a construction operation for a customers — delivering a final product with a simplified technique. More forward progress in the works from Caterpillar.
Following the adoption of Act 89 in Pennsylvania three years ago, that state's DOT is now in the middle of awarding $2.4 billion to 820 highway and bridge projects statewide. The significance is that nearly $1 billion of those dollars is a direct result of the new appropriation. Pennsylvania motorists are encountering scores of infrastructure work, as are contractors involved with the biggest project to date — reconstruction of Interstate 70 around New Stanton.
Meanwhile, across the state line New Jersey motorists are fuming after all construction has been halted while politicians sort out a way to increase the state gas tax as the construction budget has dried up. DOT and police report scores of nasty incidents of fists being clamped, fingers extended and other assorted displays of construction fatigue as some roads are reduced to single lanes around projects begun but not finished as about 1,000 construction workers are stuck waiting for a resolution to the debacle.
It may just have been divine intervention that prevent a major catastrophe recently when a crane toppled over the Tappan Zee Bridge construction zone north of New York City. Four people were injured including a construction workers. Observers say the MLC 300 crane built by Manitowoc began to list and then toppled as it carried a vibrating hammer used to drive piles for the new span under construction. It had a boom of 256 feet which miraculously missed vehicles traveling at 70 miles per hour across the old span as it collapsed over both old and new traffic lanes. What the collapse did manage to accomplish was a huge traffic jam at both ends of the Tappan Zee, causing vehicles to be re-routed for hours while debris was removed.
Following years of repeated flooding in and around Fargo, ND, and Moorhead, MN, relief is on the way. And it's a first. The Army Corps of Engineers will engage in a public-private partnership to build a 36-mile diversion channel around those cities. The Red River has been a consistent nuisance for years as waters ebb and flow with springtime thaws. The $2.5 billion channel should be finished in six to eight years.
Looking to the future, how about solar sidewalks. They would work wonders in winter climates keeping frost and ice from forming. And they're getting a test run in Missouri. The state DOT will install solar panels made of recycled glass at a rest stop along I-44 near Conway, MO. The idea comes from and Idaho company solar that is test running use of tempered glass topped panels.
The panels create heat to prevent ice crystals from forming and is better for the environment by preventing use of chemicals and gas powered equipment to keep the surfaces clear.
Finally, basic is a program language related to certain social diseases. Those who have it will not admit to it in polite company.
This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place. Presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.