Construction News Tracker is presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.
The 2018 mid-term election is over and associations affiliated with construction are calling for an infrastructure bill to be enacted. Congressional democrats that won the House are also jumping aboard the train. As for important election issues, a bid in California to dump that state's controversial new gas tax and infrastructure improvements fell to defeat. Voters were against Proposition 6 by 11 points. A similar outcome in Missouri where voters rejected Proposition D that would have raised gas taxes 2.5 cents a gallon per year through 2022 was shot down, and Missourians will keep their tax of 17 cents per gallon the same as it has been since 1996. Voters in Connecticut, however, approved Constitutional amendments creating a state lock box to safeguard funds for the state's transportation program.
Lower fuel consumption and higher fuel efficiency standards could lead to the evaporation of more than $200 billion from the Highway Trust Fund in 20 years. That's the projection by ARTBA, the road and transportation builders association. The agency gave its projections to the Federal DOT and EPA recently and said beginning in 2020 the Highway Trust Fund will begin deteriorating due to the lower fuel taxes collected.
The U.S. Commerce Department monthly report for September is that new home sales plunged 5.5% to an almost two-year low due to pressure from higher interest rates. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales came in at 553,000 down from 585,000 in August and some 13.2% below that of September 2017. The most recent average mortgage rate is now at 4.87% bringing additional pressure to the home building industry. According to the Core Logic Case Schiller 20 City Home Price Index, the market is experiencing a downturn over the past six months with prices rising the most in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Seattle,
The U.S. is not headed for an economic downturn. Offering an outline at the Dodge Data and Analytics Outlook Executive Conference, Moodys Analytics said that despite the trade war and concerns from the Federal Reserve raising rates there are plenty of positive economic signs — citing the deficit finance spending bill, for one. Moodys says the effects will push the economy forward for at least another nine months, which would make it one of the nation's longest at 10 years. There is no contraction in sight.
In a recent blog post, the Brookings Institution said local governments should treat infrastructure as a key economic anchor. Citing water treatment plants, power plants, seaports, airports and mass transit, the entity said all these factors should be considered as essential to a community's well being.
A final rule to streamline NEPA, or National Environmental Policy Act, requirements has been published and is now law. It is designed to speed up and ensure greater consistency in permitting surface transportation projects nationwide while reducing duplicative environmental reporting between the FHA, Federal Rail Administration and the Federal Transportation Administration. The final rule combines FAST Act congressional requirements with EPA rules and can let entities move forward with just one environmental impact statement on a project.
The damage from Hurricane Florence on North Carolina has been tallied at $12.7 billion. Lawmakers in the state have already approved spending $850 million in initial relief along with another $50 million to leverage federal grants to repair infrastructure. Potential projects include upgrades of Interstates 40 and 95 and highways 70 and 421, which were heavily impacted by flooding from the massive storm. Businesses took the biggest hit with damage estimated at $3.9 billion while 1 million homes were affected at a preliminary cost of $3.4 billion.
Caterpillar has produced its 40,000th D Model dozer. As company officials and customers gathered recently at the company's massive Peoria, IL, plant to celebrate the occasion the keys to a D 11T dozer were handed over to Teck Industries, a large Canadian distributor that will place the new machine in a British Columbia mine. All D Model dozers have been built at the Peoria plant since its inception 40 years ago.
Mark your calendar for December 10th. That's the date that Elon Musk Boring Company will open its first test tunnel at Hawthorne, CA. If the test is successful, it would be a completed demonstration of the viability to build a new type of high speed public transportation system. The Boring Company system envisions an underground transit system using zero emission high speed electric sleds to carry both vehicles and people utilizing a bank of elevators to transport the cargo from street level to the underground stops. The Hawthorne-based tunnel to be unveiled December 10th begins at a Space X Company parking lot and runs two miles underground.
In closing, if you think too much and fail to take action, fear makes its home within you.
This is Construction News Tracker looking over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by ForConstructionPros.com.