Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
The omnibus federal budget bill recently signed into law is being touted by the White House as a down payment on infrastructure. House Republican leadership is playing up the bill's $21.2 billion in infrastructure funding as a key priority. The House Committee on Appropriations divided up the promised funds as follows:
- $3.5 billion for highways
- $1 billion for airports
- $3.1 billion for rail projects
- $1.4 billion on water infrastructure
- $25 million on rural broadband
- $1.1 billion on commerce, justice and science facilities
- $1.2 billion on general services administration projects
- $1.9 billion on EPA water and superfund projects
- And in a complete surprise, an increase of $1 billion on TIGER Grants created by the Obama Administration to fund local and state projects
The budget also contains $2.8 billion for new military projects including VA hospitals.
The general contractor on the $2.5 billion wharf mixed use development in Washington D.C. has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the architects. Citing breach of contract, Clark Construction alleges that Perkins Eastman design documents contain substantial errors and omissions. Specifically, Clark contends that concrete beams, slabs and columns, rebar piers and piles as well as other design issues are insufficient.
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is reporting that contractors that use their STEP — safety performance evaluation process — are 670% safer than the industry average. ABC also claims that their “STEP” program can reduce reportable safety incidents by 85%. The STEP program incorporates new hire orientation, site safety specific content, near hit and miss analysis, substance abuse and toolbox talks in employee engagement. Contractors can measure their safety programs according to 20 key components, reduce employee absence due to safety incidents and benchmark their safety records against the industry.
Dodge Data says that new construction starts slipped 3% in February compared with January. The seasonally adjusted rate of $708.1 billion indicates some loss of momentum especially when compared with December's 12% gain. The nonbuilding sector, which consists of public works and utilities, fell 23% in February which pushed the overall decline. Total construction starts for the first two months of the year were down $102.4 billion on an unadjusted basis, or 7% from 2017, and places the Dodge Index at 150, which Chief Economist Robert Murray says is reflective of the public works category that is likely to bounce back in the next few months.
The National Association of Home Builders is reporting an upswing in its national sales index. Rising 3.1% in February to an index rank of 107.5 after a tumble of 5% in January, the association reports it is still down 5% from February of last year. One of the big problems is a shortage of new inventory along with healthy demand pushing up prices. The home builders claims the nation's expanding jobs market has pushed first time home buyers into positive territory buying new homes.
Gilbane Building and M&W Group have formed a joint venture to build the $10 billion Foxconn hi-tech LCD screen manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin. CH2M, a subsidiary of Jacobs Engineering, will perform architectural and engineering service while a Milwaukee area company, the Signa Group, will be the environmental consultant on the massive facility.
Bid requests are underway with actual construction hiring to take place in the next 60 days as an estimated 10,000 construction workers will be employed. Foxconn and local entities have created the BIG STEP — building industry group skilled trades employment program — with training centers opened to handle the hiring process. The first phase of the Foxconn operation will be a water and energy plant, offices, a 1.5 million-square-foot television assembly building and an LCD screen glass facility. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin DOT has awarded Payne and Dolan of Waukesha a $6.7 million contract to begin roadwork to support the construction process of the plant.
Not very many miles south of Foxconn the city of Chicago has narrowed the competition for building an express train from the downtown loop to O’hare International Airport to two candidates, and one may surprise you. Four total entities responded to requests for plans last year, and now the list is narrowed to two: Elon Musk Boring Company and O’hare Express LLC.
Express LLC consists of Meridiam, JLC Infrastructure, Mott Macdonald and First Transit. The city advised the participants the project could be above or below ground, and the Musk Group wants to construct a tunnel. The O’hare Express is to be designed to run at 15 minute intervals 24/7 and take no more than 20 minutes between the two points. A concept derived by Chicago's mayor, the express train is expected to cost between $1 and $3 billion and be completed by 2025.
In closing, every revolutionary idea — in science, politics, art or whatever — evokes three stages of reaction in a hearer:
- It is completely impossible — don't waste my time.
- It is possible, but it is not worth doing.
- I said it was a good idea all along.
This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.