[VIDEO] Irma and Harvey Cut Power to 8 Million People in Five States

Contractors are scrambling to secure materials for rebuilding after both hurricanes; plus more construction industry news on the September 21, 2017 edition of Construction News Tracker

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

At one point in the past week 8 million people in five states were without electricity, as Hurricane Irma and its remnants battered the nation's southeast. Beginning in the Virgin Islands then covering Puerto Rico, the storm went on to cause severe damage across the Florida peninsula from the Keys to Jacksonville. The reconstruction that millions now face will be daunting. Contractors are scrambling to secure materials for rebuilding an untold number of communities, while others dry out from severe flooding.

All this just two weeks after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas Gulf Coast sweeping inland to Houston. One area concerned over having adequate construction crews is Baton Rouge, LA, still rebuilding from severe flooding in August of 2016. However AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson says such fears are overstated. Many of the Baton Rouge workers are from the Houston area, and now have work stemming from Harvey alone.

Moody Analytics estimated the economic impact from hurricanes Harvey and Irma will range from $150 to $200 billion. Lost economic output is presently pegged at the $20 to $30 billion dollar level. As a result of the severe destruction Moody's has reduced its third quarter gross domestic output a half point to 2.5%. That now places the combined costs of the storms on a par with Hurricane Katrina that blasted New Orleans in 2005. Moody's analytical now envisions the nation's fourth quarter growth slightly higher as the rebuilding effort continues as insurance and aid payments come to the fore.

There's another new poll out dealing with our infrastructure. HNTB conducted the survey, and Reuters reviewed it. Overall 84% of Americans would pay either higher taxes or more in tolls to pay for improved roads and bridges. Seventy-three percent say they back P3 partnerships while even more would be in favor of higher fees if they knew the funds were mandated for those specific projects. The HNTB poll is sort of a mirror to one conducted earlier this year by the New York Times, and contains many of the same favorable conclusions.

Meanwhile AASHTO, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, reports that taxes collected for the Highway Trust Fund are not adequate to keep up with heavy traffic use. Minus refunds, excise taxes collected in the nine-month span from Cctober 2016 through July of this year were $31.7 billion $100.000 less than the same period in 2016 while traffic volume was 1.6% higher. This is all related to the fact that the Highway Trust Fund has not changed since 1993, and many more vehicles now qualify as fuel efficient, thus lowering the tax base.

Future bridge building between the U.S. and Canada could literally become tricky in the months ahead after the Canadian government has given its blessing to the private Maroun family to construct a new parallel ambassador span over the Detroit River. Both the U.S. and Canadian governments previously endorsed a Detroit River Bride Consortium plan for a similar bridge and have already spent $500 million thus far toward the longest cable stayed billion dollar span in the U.S. The sticking point at present is that the U.S. government and Michigan have yet to sign off on the Maroun family plan.

A highly contentious pipeline across northern Ohio has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory commission. Proposed by Canadian giant Enbridge and Detroit-based DTE Energy, the $2 billion Nexus natural gas line will carry product from the Appalachian shale fields across northern Ohio into Michigan and Ontario, Canada. The pipeline would be capable of carrying 42 million cubic meters of gas per day.

Apple seeks to build a $1.3 billion data center at Waukee, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines. In exhange, local officials will give the tech giant $200 million in tax incentives with $100 million going directly back into the Waukee, Iowa, coffers. High paying permanent jobs, not to mention the construction costs, will benefit the rural community, and the funding mechanism is seen as a means to fuel that economic expansion.

Ground breaking has taken place for the $756 million Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel expansion. Dragados and Schiavone Construction are joint contractors on the project estimated to last some five years. Dragados is a specialty tunnel boring contractor that recently employed the massive Bertha cutting machine on the Alaska Way Viaduct project in Seattle. The company has brought to the Chesapeake site another boring machine that will create a two lane underpass that parallels existing tunnel traffic. Upwards of a 1,000 construction workers are expected on the site.

Yet another ground breaking has occurred, this time at Clarksville, TN. South Korean-based consumer products manufacturer LG will occupy the 1-million-square-foot facility when completed, not far from Fort Campbell, KY. The plant will make LG washing machines and be capable of churning them out every 10 seconds. That's right. A new machine every 10 seconds, and make a model change over in four minutes, when at full capacity. They will have about 800 construction workers at the 310 acre site.

In closing, a lot of people have great ideas, but nothing in the world is cheaper than a good idea with no action.

This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.

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