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Flooding has caused some $3 billion in damage to levees along the Missouri River alone this spring and caused severe flooding in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas. The Army Corps of Engineers says it will take quite some time for floodwaters to recede enough for crews to assess the degree of damage and begin repairs. Thus far only a handful of more than 40 construction contracts have been issued. Helicopters and drone use are being employed to inspect the level of damage along the levees because many of them were left damaged by overflowing floodwaters.
President Trump abruptly cancelled a meeting at the White House recently between congressional heavyweights over infrastructure telling them there will be no negotiations over a $2 trillion proposal while congressional committees investigate his handling of various matters. Association of General Contractors CEO Steve Sandherr said that American taxpayers understand our infrastructure needs improvement, and they will reward elected officials who work to fix it and punish those who do not. There is still time to make a deal if both sides are willing to get serious and find the revenue necessary for a long-term funding package. There appears to be no consensus for a type of payment such as raising the nation's fuel tax or adoption of a type of vehicle miles tax program. Critical timing of renewal of the Highway Funding Bill lies ahead at the end of this year.
So much for a planned high-speed rail system in California. The Federal Rail Administration (FRA) has just rescinded its $928 million contribution to the controversial project after criticism from the Trump Administration. According to an FRA statement, California officials failed to make reasonable progress on the high-speed rail line and seriously cut back its route from Los Angeles to San Francisco by trimming it to a 100-mile swath across the central part of the state. The feds had not yet allocated the $928 million and are also trying to claw back $2.5 billion previously given to the state for it. California has filed suit against the FRA over its decision.
California state fire officials have now officially placed the blame for the devastating fire that destroyed the city of Paradise last fall. The state says faulty transmission lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company caused the November fire that wiped out 15,000 homes at the height of the state's wildfire season. There's a large number of claims and court cases filed against PG&E, many of them with prosecutors seeking damages for over 20,000 victims of the fire.
Construction costs keep rising. In fact, it's been 31 consecutive months of increases, according to the IHS Markit Construction Cost Index. It registered 63.8 in May, up from April's reading of 58.2. The materials and equipment index rose to 65.4 while the labor index hit 60.1. Both current and expected prices for materials and labor remain in positive territory. Of the 11 components on the Index, ready-mix concrete appears to be leading the rise as the final price of delivered product, including labor and overhead, came in at 8% high year-over-year nationally and 11% higher in southern states where there is a higher demand.
The operating authority of the Las Vegas Convention Center has approved a $49 million contract with Elon Musk Boring Company to build a self driving vehicle system beneath the complex. It would consist of twin tunnels running less than a mile long capable of transporting 16 people, have three underground stations and a pedestrian tunnel connection. Under the Las Vegas Convention deal work is to begin by September and be finished by December of 2020.
Construction has been ongoing throughout the winter on the new Pensacola Bay Bridge that links the city of Gulf Breeze, FL, along the westernmost reaches of the state. The Florida DOT project along with Skanska and WSP contractors has nearly completed the east bound span of the critical crossing. The 3-mile-long span is replacing an obsolete bridge in the $400 million project. Construction on the westbound span is expected to begin soon with completion next year.
Four hundred million for roads, bridges and water systems — that's what's headed to Montana after a series of legislative bills was signed recently. The funds will go to repair or replace 14 bridges and 51 water, wastewater and sewer projects statewide now. Overall, the Montana legislature has approved spending $2.7 billion on infrastructure and highway projects going forward.
In closing, self-confidence in itself is of no value. It is useful only when put to work.
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