[VIDEO] Senate Committee Approves $297B Transportation Bill Without Funding

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved a $287 billion highway bill to replace the FAST Act when it expires in Oct. 2020; plus more industry news on the Aug. 8, 2019, edition of Construction News Tracker

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

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has unanimously approved  a $287 billion highway bill. It would replace the FAST Act when it expires in October of 2020. It calls for a 27% increase in highway and infrastructure spending over current authorized funding; but the caveat is that it carries no funding, and committee leaders say there is no provision for funding with a federal gas tax increase. Construction industry groups are praising the committee's work.

Dodge Data is reporting that nonresidential construction starts in June were up 9% to a seasonally adjusted rate of $832.7 billion. This follows a continued strengthening from May of 10%. The June increase is being attributed to the start of construction on the $1.1 billion O'Hare Airport terminal 5 expansion. Other major projects such as office buildings, warehouses, healthcare facilities and public buildings also enter into the mix. Overall, Dodge reports that for the first six months of 2019 total construction starts were down 8% from 2018. The U.S. Commerce Eepartment says residential construction fell 1.3% in the second quarter of the year as the GDP slowed to a 2.1% growth rate.

Construction costs increases were widespread in July, according to IHS Markit Construction Cost Index. The Index registered 63.2 last month compared with July at 55.7 and is now 33 months of consecutive cost hikes. Materials and equipment along with subcontractor labor continued to keep the Index on a constant rise. Eleven of 12 subcomponents suffered increases with the exception of carbon steel pipe which remained neutral. For those companies that import materials IHS Markit is advising to be aware of the impact next January of marine sulfur fuel emissions regulations requiring marine operators to switch to more expensive fuel thus passing along the cost to shippers.

The Missouri DOT reports that so far major flooding on its highway system has yet to effect its bottom line for repairs. Facing $30 million in unexpected costs from lingering high water damage statewide from spring flooding Missouri says that due to the fact it's early in its fiscal year gives the agency some breathing room in where to apply the added repairs without affecting planned work projects. MODOT has applied to the federal DOT for emergency repair funds and has received $4 million in relief so far. The flooding has been ongoing now for four months, and crews are working daily to assess damage as water levels recede.

It'll be a first for the U.S. and Pennsylvania when crews install an electronically isolated tendon system on a bridge replacement project. The EIT provides an efficient way to detect corrosion on post tension tendons. It's been used in Europe for years but is the first time for use in the U.S. when it is incorporated into the Coplay Northampton Bridge project. The Federal Highway Administration is supporting PennDOT's application of EIT on the $33 million bridge replacement project that will be completed next year. AECOM is the engineer and Trumbull Corporation is the contractor. EIT will monitor the corrosion protection system for the tendons on the 3-span continuous bridge.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $125 million INFRA Grant to the Mobile Alabama Bayway Bridge Project. If the $2 billion highway proposal becomes reality it would eliminate the last tunnel across heavily traveled Interstate 10 in the nation. INFRA, or Infrastructure for Rebuilding America Grant, is one of the largest ever awarded to Alabama. The state DOT seeks to have the planned bridge built as a tolled project, which has generated significant opposition in the region.

Exxon Mobil and SABIC Corporations are proceeding with plans for their $10 billion petro chemical plant near Corpus Christi, Texas. The joint venture has selected Salt Lake City, Utah, rail operator Savage to design, build and operate a 152-acre rail facility adjacent to their Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project. The massive project to process plastic polyethelene pellets is expected to employ 6,000 construction workers over the next two years and fully employ some 600 when operational in 2022.

Acting under pressure from a Detroit TV station and its viewers, the Michigan DOT will begin removing all XLite Guardrails from state highways. The controversial highway seperators have been involved in numerous lawsuits regarding their design and alleged danger built by Lindsay Transportation Solutions. According to engineers, when a vehicle strikes the end cap or terminal it should act like an accordion and absorb the hit, but the Lindsay system instead extends upwards and penetrates the vehicle windshield. Michigan DOT says it has had no adverse problems with the XLite System nor has the U.S. DOT, but other states have posted myriad reports of such impacts resulting in death and injury.

In closing, one person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who only have interests.

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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