Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
The U.S Commerce Department March report claims the total value of all U.S. construction put in place fell 1.7%. Both residential and nonresidentail spending declined, private outlays dropped 2.1% while public spending was flat. Construction activity, however, continues on solid footing as spending is up 5.5% over last year, and the reports from January and February were revised upwards. Residential construction spending in March declined 3.5% as home improvement spending in March was off 8%. Single family construction outlays for the first quarter were up over 10.% from a year ago.
Researching data from the Census Bureau and HUD indicates total housing starts increased 1.9% in March to a 1.32 million seasonally adjusted rate, but the pace of single family starts was off 3.7%, likely the result of lots of inclement weather. The three-month average for housing starts remains high, and the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index has slipped for the past four months but remains at what NAHB calls a solid 69.
Congress has authorized the Government Accounting Office to study why infrastructure costs so much more in the U.S. than other parts of the world. Following approval of the $1.3 trillion spending bill earlier this year, lawmakers asked the federal agency to assess cost structures. Included are cost drivers such as contracting policies, station design and cost barriers in other nations as compared to the U.S. — particularly in New York City where rail costs alone are $1.5 billion per mile as opposed to an average of $50 million per mile in the rest of the world.
The National Association of Home Builders latest report indicates a lack of inventory is restraining the sales market nationwide. Interested home buyers continue to face a shortage of affordable inventory driving up property prices faster than wage growth even as mortgage rates continue to rise. As a result, the NAR revised its annual sales forecast to $5.61 million existing homes this year a rise of 1.8% over 2017.
The Trump administration is revamping its popular TIGER grant program renaming and tweaking its criteria. As a result, states and cities that raise their own taxes and tolls will have a better chance of winning federal money for roads and bridges. So grant applicants will be judged on whether they can self generate non-federal revenue to cover infrastructure costs.
Associated Builders and Contractors is reporting its analysis of the Federal Bureau of Economics that shows the economy expanded at a rate of 2.3% during the first quarter of 2018. All the subsegments — structures, equipment and intellectual property — grew at a whopping 12% annual rate.
Werner Industries, the company that produces ladders, will train 25,000 construction workers on fall protection this month. It's an effort along with OSHA and will conduct 200 training sessions nationwide. Online training will be available as well for those who wish to learn how to spent a ladder for safety, fall protection equipment, safety harness adjustment and work with fall protection tripods. All the training from Werner is free.
Developers of a high speed train between north Texas and Houston have hired Bechtel as project manager. The investor-led project by Texas Central has also hired Flour, Lane and WSP as planning and engineering consultants for the 240-mile rail line, reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour. Texas Central says it intends to move the plan from development to implementation rapidly.
Look for the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport to expand substantially, and its all because of Amazon. The massive shipping arm of its operation is in construction of three million square feet of hanger space to house 100 prime air planes being purchased for its international hub. Amazon is leasing 1,100 acres of land from the Cincinnatti Airport Authority under a 50 year deal. Complete buildout is slated for 2025 and when finished will employ 2,700 workers. Amazon is also building out 2.6 million square feet at the Oklahoma City Airport complex for warehousing and distribution.
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This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.