Video: Congress Approves 2 Month Highway Funding Extension

While Congress has approved a two-month extension, a long-term solution for the highway funding crisis still needs to be found; plus more industry news on the May 28, 2015 edition of Construction News Tracker

Highway funding advanced...

Construction rental market improves...

And housing starts grow...

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

Talk about down to the wire. The U.S. Senate on Memorial Day weekend gave its blessing on a two-month extension of the Highway Funding Bill until the end of July. Following on the heels of earlier House approval, to use a football metaphor, the action is akin to an offside kick attempt. A long-term resolution to highway funding is the real answer.

AASHTO Encourages Congress to Fix - Not Patch - Highway Funding Crisis

Meanwhile, the construction industry relies on fits and starts to tackle needed infrastructure projects. At a recent forum on the issue hosted by the Pew Foundation, Washington D.C. Transportation Director Lief Dormsjo summed up the predicament.

Soon we will be hearing much about OReGO. That's what the state of Oregon has named its mileage tax program that takes effect July 1st. Voluntary for now, 5,000 drivers will have devices installed on their vehicle to calculate a 1.5 center per mile tax as they travel. At month's end, these drivers will either receive a credit or a bill depending on the amount of miles driven. Oregon is the first state to adopt a VMT or vehicle miles tax program.

The U.S. Commerce Department says housing starts jumped over 20 percent in April to its highest level since fall of 2007 at 1.135 million units. Despite the surge, the National Association of Home Builders says the housing is still only halfway to its product goal of what is considered normal; even the number of pulled permits rose in April by 10 percent.

2015 is shaping up to be a busy year for contractors, at least from the rental market viewpoint. Wells Fargo in a recent poll claims 45 percent of contractors are in the rental market for this year while equipment dealers are smiling as 60 percent plan to grow their fleet size. A word of caution is in order as many rental outlets are engaging in the rent to rent market for the first time, so contractors need to be assured that dealers can deliver the goods.

With the summer season upon us, construction crews are getting fired up. And nowhere but Colorado does the term carry so much meaning. That's due to the state DOT bomb crews — yup bomb crews — out clearing the highway passes of snow avalanche conditions. Independence Pass as an example climbs 12,000 feet between Aspen and Buena Vista and is one of the trickiest to prepare for summer motorists. Using helicopters and ground crews armed with explosives, it takes a couple of days with as many as two dozen bombs to trigger the snow slides that cascade down the slopes where ground crews and equipment then clean up the mess.

By the way, the Colorado DOT avalanche crews also make their own bombs using 25 pounds of explosive and a 5-pound detonator. Whew, gotta have steady hands for that work!

Likely a first for contractors, a guarantee of fuel economy. 

Cat just started its "Pay You Back" Program that guarantees fuel economy of its machines with over 100 Cat machines eligible for the benefit. The fuel guarantee combines Cat Product Link to consumption and to Cat Vision Link.

One example is a Cat 336F excavator averaging 10 gallons per hour consumption for 1,000 hours. The Cat "Pay You Back" Program would guarantee a 7.5 gallon per hour payback applied to a Cat commercial account.

And we close on this note: it usually takes a long time to find a shorter way.

This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes our world a better place. Brought to you by Caterpillar and produced by We're on Twitter using #constructionnews and Facebook as the streaming Web never ends.