[VIDEO] Senate Weighing 2017 Budget Proposal to Slash $2.2 billion in Highway Funding

Senate considering removing $2.2 billion from the FAST Act, which would eliminate contract authority less than a year after approval; plus more construction industry news on the September 15, 2016, edition of Construction News Tracker

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

The U.S. Congress returns from its extended summer vacation this week facing a full agenda. Amongst items awaiting a decision are the federal budget which comes due October 1. Included will be an item dealing with the FAST Act, adopted last December. The Senate would like to strip $2.2 billion from the Act in a move known as recission. It has transportation officials in a dither because it would eliminate contract authority less than a year after approval.

Seems nearly impossible to believe that 15 years has elapsed since the World Trade Center was destroyed in the attacks of 9/11. After the twin 1010-story towers went down they have been replaced by the Freedom Tower One World Trade Center at 1,776 feet tall, with more structures on the plan boards. All told, $15.8 billion has resulted in the 16-acre development, a transportation hub, victim's memorial and retail mall.

October 25th is the date for the new Department of Labor rule dubbed "the blacklist" by the construction industry as it would basically ban contractors from being able to perform government work.

Finalized Federal 'Blacklisting' Rule Sparks Industry Backlash

Associated Builders along with Associated General Contractors associations has blasted the effort as arbitrary punishment for firms that would be obliged to disclose any labor law violation in the past three years. Construction industry officials say the new rules are unfair in that they would keep smaller firms from seeking federal work scared by potential risk and higher compliance costs.

Perusing the U.S. Census Bureau's spending statistics has ConstructConnect updating its spring forecasts for construction spending. The organization is changing its outlook from on presented last April, as a downward report on put-in-place construction spending dips from 9% to 5.9% for the balance of this year, dropping the 2017 outlook from 8.5% to 6.9%, but keeping its 2018 forecast about even at 7.8%.

ConstructConnect has also revised its residential construction forecast as follows:

  • From 11.8% to 7.6% for the rest of this year
  • 10.5% to 8.4% for 2017
  • Rising in 2018 from 9.5% to 9.8%

Again, these are forecast revisions from its April outlook.

The nonresidential forecast for the rest of the year is adjusted from 7.2% down to 4.8%; 2017 from 7.2% to 6%; and 2018 even at 6.4%.

The revisions come from the Census Bureau's actual construction spending report from June 2016.

There is little change from the 20 hottest housing markets report from August as the West Coast and Southwest continue to show growth basically around the 2% mark.

The list includes markets such as:

  • San Diego
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Waco, TX
  • Kennewicnk, WA

Along with previously reported Dallas, San Francisco, Denver and Detroit.

Economic woes continue to plague Caterpillar as the company has announced more reduction moves. Three-hundred employees will be laid off at the Peoria, IL, plant near its headquarters while overseas Cat is seeking to shutter plants in Belgium and northern Ireland. The 300 terminations would be in addition to the 10,000 layoffs previously announced.

The Federal DOT is granting nearly $800 million to 18 projects nationwide under the Fastlane program adopted last December. Much of the money is destined for rail projects as the agency launches its Build America Bureau designed to streamline credit and grant opportunities to communities for expanded infrastructure projects.

A new tunnel is in the works for the Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Virginia and Maryland. The commission charged with the massive project has awarded Spain-based Dragados a design-build contract of $756 million to come up with a 17.6-mile tunnel plan over the next year. If built, it would run parallel to the existing structure connecting Virginia Beach, VA, with the eastern shore of Maryland. But the final tab could be well north of $7 billion.

As the south recovers from recent flooding, estimates as high as $8 billion are coming in for reconstruction costs. Louisiana has already received over $4 million from the Federal DOT to help repair washed-out roads and bridges.

And as we've discovered, officials are employing a new tool developed by Louisiana Tech University called Ultra Wide Band Pulsed Radar to inspect underground utilities and supports. Engineers have included the technology into robots being used around Slidell, LA, to document underground infrastructure. The UWB technology is now looked upon as a new tool for the trenches industry going forward, as it can be adapted to nearly any type of use.

In closing, we find that too many people are ready to move the bench when it's really the piano that needs to be moved.

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 and both YouTube and Facebook as the streaming Web never ends.