[VIDEO] Construction Starts 12% Below 2015

A decline in total construction starts through the first five months of the year brings the total to 12% lower than the same period in 2015; plus more construction industry news on the July 7, 2016, edition of Construction News Tracker

Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.

Five percent is the seasonally adjusted annual rate increase in value of construction starts between May and June as reported by Dodge Data.

Admitting the month to month starts are uneven, Dodge Chief Economist Robert Murray says the overall pattern has shown continued growth. An exmaple, a decline in total construction starts through the first five months of the year brings the total to 12% lower than the same period in 2015. The index shows a positive construction growth environment since 2010 and believes the industry still has more growth to look forward to.

Consider the dilemma in New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie has ordered a state of emergency shutting down all state highway projects because the transportation fund is nearly bankrupt. A political battle rages after the House approved, but the Senate refused to hike New Jersey's gas tax by a whopping 23 cents per gallon in exchange for reducing the state sales tax by a penny to pay for highway projects. DOT officials estimated they have $85 million to spend, but it would last only another month.

Revised Commerce Department stats show that new home sales declined from April by nearly 10%. That number does not jive with builder confidence figures of a rise of two points to the benchmark 60, and indicates a rise of 1.8% in new home sales to a nine year high. The May commerce index totaled 560,000 units, still 8.7% above that of May 2015.

Hard to believe the nation's interstate highway system is now 60 years old. It was on June 29 of 1956 that President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Bill into law. Over time the number of miles traveled has gone from 626 million to nearly three trillion. And since 2000 travel nationwide has grown at twic the rate of new highway lanes built. The result is lots of congestion, particularly around key urban areas, resulting in an estimated $189 dollar backlog of needed improvements.

Which brings us to this story. The best and worst states for summer travel, according to recent studies, California leads the way in areas of high gas prices and poor surfaces resulting in vehicle suspension problems at an average cost of $586. Other states on the lousy drive index are New Jersey, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi.

For motorists seeking the most pleasant driving experience carinsurance.com lists Minnesota, New Hampshire, Virginia and Vermont as the smoothest and least costly.

The first half of 2016 is history, and for construction it has been notable. The government's new OSHA silica rules add to the list of regulations that cost contractors money, in the case of housing construction by upwards of 25%. Then there's the new overtime rules. Lack of inventory is noted as only six new homes are under construction for every 10 new American households. New technology such as BIM, drones, laser scanning and 3D printing begin to shape the future of construction.

Soon to visit a port near you will be massive ocean freight liners carrying significantly more cargo. That, of course, depends on whether your port can accommodate them. The first ship through the newly expanded Panama Canal carried 9,472 containers.

Panama Canal Expansion Opens for Business

The Chinese vessel crossed the 48-mile Panama Canal recently following a $5.2 billion expansion linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It's anticipated the larger canal will enable longer ships to visit East Coast ports and shorten travel time by seven to nine days.

Fifty percent completed. That's the story of the Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River of New York City.

The unique spans carry a system of monitors to gauge stress on cables, bearings and joints registering all type of conditions from traffic volume to potential earthquakes. Cable stays will be strung beginning this month as workers and engineers continue the job of completing the $3.9 billion crossing.

In closing, ideas are funny little things. They don't work until you do.

This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place. Presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com. Follow us on social media at Twitter using #constructionnews, YouTube and on Facebook as the streaming web never ends.