Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
It's been six years since Hurricane Sandy devastated the eastern seaboard of New Jersey and New York, and continuing work on a pair of tunnels has finally been completed. $550 million was spent to restore and upgrade New York City's Carey and Queens midtown tunnels by installing 50,000-pound floodgates, energy efficient lighting and cashless tolling technology. The work was completed nine months ahead of schedule.
The value of U.S. construction put in place in June surprised forecasters with a 1.1% drop to an annual rate of $1.3 billion. The Department of Commerce revised its May monthly estimate up to a record high taking some sting out of the slip, but spending in all five of the largest construction segments suffered in comparison the following month. U.S. construction spending through the first half of the year jumped 5.1% above the first six months of 2017 led by strength in private residential spending, highway and street and commercial construction.
The nation's unemployment rate now stands at 3.9% after employers added 157,000 jobs to payrolls in July. However, that's well below the average 215,000 new jobs monthly for the previous seven months. Economists say the decline is most likely temporary as the economy continues to hum.
The long awaited draft of a national infrastructure plan by U.S. House Transportation Committee Chair Bill Schuster has finally dropped. Calling for significant infrastructure investment and federal grant programs through 2021, Schuster seeks a 15 cent per gallon gas tax and 20 cent per gallon diesel tax phased in over a three year period to provide partial funding. The Pennsylvania republican, who is stepping down at the end of this year, calls for reforming the highway trust fund to keep it solvent and establishing a commission to study the nation's highway system and infrastructure needed to keep it at optimum condition.
American Public Transportation Association President Paul Skoutelas has penned a lengthy report that claims decades of under investing in the nation's transportation systems has cost us dearly. Skoutelas points out that the federal transit system has identified $90 billion in backlogged needs to bring public transportation up to speed nationally. The report also shows that 87% of trips taken on public transportation are work or local business related, and that every dollar spent on such systems returns $4 in economic returns. APTA claims that failure to address these needs will result in a $340 billion economic loss to the nation's economy in the next six years.
Some construction industrial news to report, Vermeer Corporation of Pella, Iowa, had two factories wiped out by an EF3 tornado July 19th, just as the company was hosting employees and guests at its 70th anniversary celebration. Miraculously, only a couple of employees sustained minor injury at the farm and industrial equipment company complex as a few minutes of advanced warning let officials engage their storm shelter program.
Elsewhere, officials gathered recently at Newport News, VA, as Liebherr broke ground for its $45 million headquarters expansion. The development is taking place at a site adjacent to its long time headquarters location. It will consist of three buildings — administration, warehousing and parts distribution — as upgrading of present facilities to support Liebherr's crane construction and concrete divisions. The entire complex, when completed, will total nearly 820,000 square feet.
Work is expected to begin in the next few months on a controversial tunnel that Elon Musk company has been approved to build in Chicago. Musk Boring Company will construct the 16-mile-long project linking O'hare Airport to the downtown Chicago loop. It would cross under the Chicago River at least once as well as Interstate highways 90/94. The Boring Company would pay the entire cost of the tunnel and recover it through user fees and advertisements. It would feature 8-wheeled skate cars based on Tesla chassis designed to carry up to 16 passengers each and luggage along its 16-mile pathway. Chicago officials say the twin tunnel project is expected to cost at least $1 billion dollars.
Ground breaking has been held for construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The crossing of the border between our two nations at Windsor has been a bottleneck for years for motorists as well as the 30% of truckers that cross. The six lane cable stayed bridge financed totally by Canada has been the center of controversy over the privately operated Windsor Bridge for many years. Preliminary road construction has been underway by Michigan DOT for years, and the bridge itself will begin soon with completion set for 2020.
In closing, don't mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it. If it is unfair, keep from irritation. It if is ignorant, smile. If it is justified, learn from it.
This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.