[NEWS TRACKER] Will Infrastructure Funding Plans Pass Before FAST Act Expires?

Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill, and the White House has ordered the U.S. Transportation Department to devise a $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill.

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

Infrastructure funding plans unveiled

Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that calls for a huge increase in funding for roads and bridges across America. Known as the Moving Forward Act, the measure includes spending:

  • $500 billion on highways and bridges
  • $25 billion for drinking water
  • $70 billion on clean energy projects
  • $100 billion on low income schools and other items

Meanwhile, it's reported  the White House has ordered the U.S. Transportation Department to devise a $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill to be unveiled soon. Word is that most of the money would be reserved for traditional construction such as roads and bridges, but some would go towards 5G wireless and broadband buildout. The current highway funding FAST Act expires September 30th.

Economy rebounding slowly

Persistently high layoffs suggest a slow economic rebound. Three months after the cornavirus-19 shutdown began business nationwide employers continue to shed jobs at a heavy rate. The latest number of laid off workers registered 1.5 million in the 11th straight weekly drop. And the number of Americans receiving jobless aid remains at 20.5 million as that figure continues to shock economists who were expecting lower numbers.

LGBTQ civil rights ruling

The recent Supreme Court ruling that the nation's civil rights act protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination has positive implications for construction. AGC Vice President Brian Turmail says contractors with long standing anti-discrimination measures should have no trouble meeting requirements of the law.

Homebuilding industry improving

Could the country be moving out of the doldrums? It could be as evidenced by the latest reports that the home building industry is improving. The Commerce Department reports home construction gained 4.3% in May following previous months disastrous reductions. Construction starts reached 974,000 at a seasonally adjusted rate even though the  overall industry remains 23% below that of 2019.

That’s bolstered by a similar report from the National Association of Home Builders Wells Fargo Market Index that builder confidence in the single family home building industry rose a whopping 21 points from May to June, coming in at 58 on the Index that carries a 50 point reading. The NAHB says it its poised to resume its growth target as all indicators are inline for renewed growth.

An AGC survey shows 21% of construction companies added workers in May.

Executive order waives environmental regulations

Environmental regulations and other federal rules that hamper infrastructure construction are being waived under an executive order signed by President Trump. In order to hasten the economic recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown the order effectively instructs all federal agencies to ignore regulations such as the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act in an effort to speed up public works projects that will create jobs.

The construction industry groups such as ABC and AGC have all reacted positively to the order saying it should help projects stalled in the review process.

Las Vegas Loop

The untested underground people mover being built at the Las Vegas Convention Center could potentially be expanded to a larger area. The city's Convention and Visitors Authority was told recently of plans to extend the people mover below ground to the Encore and Resorts Worlds hotels on the north end of the Strip, to Allegiant Stadium on the west, and to McCarran Airport on the south encompassing a major part of the community. The present $55 million Convention Center loop being constructed to link convention center halls is expected to be completed as early as January.

Road building stalls in Iowa

Iowa is not in much of a road building mood. State DOT officials are reporting the loss of gas tax revenue reducing gas tax payments is causing them to reduce some road projects over the next five years. And the state says it already reduced some highway projects last year as a result of lost revenue.

State DOT officials say the loss of $35 million a month, or 25% of their road budget, combined with the expiration of the nation's FAST Act at the end of September, a major source of federal aid, has them in a dither. Iowa has a draft plan to spend $3.6 billion in road construction over the next five years that’s now in jeopardy.

NY airport opens new terminal

It took nearly five years and $2 billion but now LaGuardia Airport terminal B is officially open. Consisting of 35 gates and four airlines, the new complex is part of the overall rejuvenation of the oft maligned LaGuardia and 50% larger than the original terminal complex. It's all part of an $8 billion northern Queens airport construction in New York City.

In closing, winding river concept: Move from bend to bend and enjoy each step of the way. Face the problems, but keep moving forward.

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