[NEWS TRACKER VIDEO] Continuing Resolution Prevents Losing Billions in Highway Funding

Congress passed HR 3055 which will keep the government open until December 20 and repeals the $7.6 billion rescission in federal highway funding; plus more construction industry news on the December 5, 2019, edition of Construction News Tracker.

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

Congress repeals highway funding rescission

A continuing resolution passed by the U.S. Congress November 21 averts a government shutdown for the time being and prevents states from losing billions in highway funding. HR 3055, signed by President Trump, will keep the government open until December 20, when another continuing resolution will be needed to keep government employees paychecks coming.

Discover more: [Video] What is a Continuing Resolution?

Most significantly, the bill has a provision that repeals the $7.6 billion rescission in federal highway funding, which state officials and transportation supporters had been calling for. AASHTO applauded the lawmakers for their action in keeping states from a devastating loss of revenue.

BUILD Grants awarded to 55 projects

The latest round in the sought after BUILD Grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation has yielded some $900 million in grants for 55 projects in 35 states. Fifty percent of the $883 million in Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Grants announced last month will be applied to rural area projects and supply only part of the total cost.

Construction starts continue to drop

October construction starts fell 11% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $696.3 billion, according to Dodge Data. By sector, nonresidential building starts were off 20% from September while nonbuilding starts dropped 14% and residential construction was off some 2%.. The activity punched the Dodge down to 147 for October and marks the third consecutive monthly drop in activity.

Contractor confidence dims

The level of optimism in the future of construction confidence is dimming that from Associated Builders and Contractors' (ABC) Construction Confidence Index. For the first time since the start of 2019 less than 50% of contractors expect profit margins to increase over the next six months despite 58% of them expecting to post higher sales over the same time frame.

Contractors say the already stretched labor market is seen as getting even tighter even though 60% of them expect to expand staffing levels. The report is a diffusion index measuring all aspects of contractor operations.

Economic trends will continue

ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu claims all industry metrics indicate that pre-existing trends will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Referring to the ABC Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI), which fell in September to 8.9 months from the August CBI at 9 months, Basu says public construction spending has fueled growth in recent months while private construction spending has steadily faded. This mirrors the backlog segment data.

Boston business owners want infrastructure investment

A non profit coalition of Boston business owners says Massachusetts is in the midst of a transportation crisis and needs $50 billion to right the problem. In a 16-page report given to politicians in the bay state recently, the ABC group claims that projected growth in the next 25 years mandates funds be raised to invest in infrastructure improvements.

Doosan Bobcat expands Minnesota production

Doosan Bobcat has announced it will expand its Litchfield, MN, complex by adding new production lines resulting in a final footprint expansion of 200,000 square feet. The $26 million project, intended to meet increased demand for Bobcat compact equipment and attachments, will also triple its employment base to 300. Construction is now underway and should be completed by next September.

Stanley Black and Decker building new plant

There's something about the Dallas-Forth Worth area that has intrigued Stanley Black and Decker. Back in August the world's largest tool manufacturer announced the opening of a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center. Now on November 21, Black and Decker says it will build a manufacturing plant and hire 500 additional employees. Construction is expected to place some 800 onsite.

Robotic dog collects construction site data

For years Boston Dynamics has dazzled with videos of robotic dogs working various sites, and now it's become a reality. Appropriately named Spot, the company has teamed with HoloBuilder to regularly patrol large construction sites collecting 360-degree images so engineers can track work progress.

Holobuilder and contractor Hensel Phelps employed Spot to patrol the construction of milk terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport. The robotic pet has taken over the site surveying work normally done by surveyors. Engineers are in the process of reviewing the captured data from the robotic dog Spot and comparing it to that normally collected by humans.

Finally, success often comes from taking a misstep in the right direction.

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