Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
The recovery and reconstruction that south Texas faces in the months ahead is expected to be in the billions. Hurricane Harvey destroyed many small towns along the Gulf Coast and caused immense damage to city utilities and infrastructure as it marched inland — particularly to Houston and the Gulf Coast region. Massive flooding inundated a large segment of the Lone Star State with upwards of four feet of rainfall. The National Weather Service reported effects were beyond anything ever experienced.
The Federal DOT allocated $25 million for initial emergency repairs to roads and bridges in the path of the destruction. The initial impact is coming in the form of lost gasoline and fuel oil production as refineries were forced to close, resulting in much higher pump prices. And the need for reconstruction is expected to be overwhelming with a dire need for construction workers looms.
The nation managed to produce only 156,000 new jobs last month, signaling a slowdown with enough steam to keep the economy on an even keel. The construction sector created only 28,000 new jobs for the month. As a result, the overall unemployment rate rose to 4.4%. The Commerce Department also trimmed previous job reports, cutting the July expansion from 209,000 down to 189,000 and June from 231,000 to 210,000 total new jobs.
Four construction companies have been picked by the Department of Homeland Security to begin building prototypes of a border security wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The companies are Caddell Construction of Montgomery AL; Fisher Sand and Gravel aka Fisher Industries of Tempe, AZ; Texas Sterling of Houston; and W.G. Yates and Sons of Philadelphia, MS.
Customs and border protection has set aside $2 million to the project which will construct concrete prototypes 30 feet long and 30 feet high in the San Diego area. The contractors have 30 days to complete their projects from breaking ground near each other. Four more non-concrete contractors are to be selected for prototypes soon. $1.6 billion dollars has been initially set aside for wall construction.
Dodge Data is reporting that construction starts in July were up 6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $728.1 billion. The non-building construction sector had a robust 26% jump which was led by public works and power plant construction. Residential building rose 8% pushed by a multifamily housing rebound. However, nonresidential building fell 7% following a robust June reading. The sector that lost the most was electric utility — gas plant construction — off a hefty 44%. However, eliminating that category in the Dodge report, total construction in the January-July period would be up 3% from 2016. The net result is a lift in the Dodge Index from 145 to 154 for July.
Billions in cost overruns and project delays has caused regulators in South Carolina to shutter its massive V.C. Sumner Santee Cooper nuclear power plant project. Nearly $9 billion in the hole, the Santee board voted to halt construction sending some 5,000 workers to the unemployment rolls, leaving behind two unfinished nuclear reactors. Scana Corporation owns 55% of the unit and Santee Copper the remainder. Estimated costs of completion were expected to soar 75% from the initial budget to upwards of $24 billion.
September 23rd is when the new OSHA silica standards for construction go into effect, and contractors better be appraised of them. If you run any construction activity that creates silica dust — from cutting, grinding or blasting materials such as concrete, stone and brick — you will have to meet the higher standards covering respirable crystalline silica, and how much your workers inhale. And the rules cover employers and tradespeople that work around that environment. Fifty grams of dust over an eight-hour period is now the new limit for such dust, and OSHA penalties are expected to be severe.
Westbound traffic on the new Tappan Zee River bridge has begun using the new structure. Officials opened the one side of the $4 billion span days ago, as work continues on the east bound direction, not expected to be completed until next spring. The New York State Thruway Authority began work to replace the old Tappan Zee in 2013 following decades of political squabbling. The bridge over the Hudson River is a vital link for motorists traveling north of New York City and is three miles long and a twin span. The toll bridge is part of the New York state thruway system.
What may qualify for Ripley's Believe It or Not has happened in California. A celebration has been held to signify the 70th anniversary of pavement along a stretch of Interstate 10 between Ontario and San Bernardino. That’s right, 70 years of the same highway pavement. First constructed in 1947 the original Highway 70-99 was built with what was then known as diamond grinding. The technique removed bumps and dips, restoring pavement to nearly new. It has since become a cost effective, reliable and now time tested alternative to resurfacing or reconstruction.. Portland Cement along with other construction industry officials were on hand for the state commemoration of the 70 year mark, thanking CALDOT for their work as well.
In closing, whatever you undertake, act with prudence and consider the consequences.
This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.