Construction News: President and Senators Agree on Infrastructure-Bill Scope as Construction Spending Slows

News Tracker includes House of Representatives passing a $715 transpo and water bill, what lead to May’s decline in construction spending, status of Miami condo-tower collapse, lumber prices’ June plunge, an optimistic construction forecast into 2022

“We have a deal.” That’s what President Biden told reporters outside the White House recently along with a bipartisan group of senators. They had worked tirelessly on a new $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal that still faces a tough road ahead. The agreement includes $312 billion tied to transportation, $109 billion for roads bridges and major construction, $25 billion for airports and $16 billion for waterways and seaports. The American Council of Engineering Companies projects the bill would boost engineering and design sales by $126 billion over six years, add 82,000 jobs and 62 billion in wages, a significant boost.

The House of Representatives has passed a $715 billion transportation and drinking water bill. The measure, which still faces Senate consideration before September 30th, passed along party-line votes and would authorize a 50% increase in highway spending, $343 billion would be devoted to roads and bridges and $109 billion for transit, $168 billion for wastewater and drinking water efforts would also wipe out unpaid water bills of those suffering from the pandemic. Amtrak funding would be tripled to $32 billion. Transportation Committee Chair Peter De Fazio said its time for the nation to be bold in its future.

A 0.3% decline in construction spending in May was led by slowing housing construction. The Commerce Department report says the decline followed a slight rise in April. Overall construction spending was up 7.5% from 2020. While single-family home construction rose slightly in May, multifamily construction was flat. Nonresidential construction fell a bit more than 1% in May.

The collapse of a 12-story condo tower in Miami has left officials dazed and bewildered as to its cause, claiming 20 lives (46, as of this edit) with 128 missing (nearly 100 at edit). The building simply pancaked into itself in the early morning hours of June 24th. Scientists and engineers specializing in structure failures are on the ground from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. They’ve already pieced together the probable sequence of the collapse but the trigger remains a mystery.

Lumber futures tanked more than 40% in June – their worst month on record since 1978. The quick reversal of soaring lumber costs by over 18% is the first sign of a downturn since 2015. Increased supply, cooled trading action and eased homebuilding demand all contributed to the downturn. Meanwhile, $35,872 is the reported add-on cost of building a new home as a result of material price hikes from the pandemic according to the National Association of Home Builders, while multifamily housing has added $12,966 dollars to its new building cost.

Dodge Data is optimistic in its future construction starts forecast for 2021 and 2022. Considering even a modest $500 billion infrastructure bill coming from the Congress, Dodge projects starts to rebound nicely by 4% in 2021 and by 8% in 2022 to a level of $877 billion, surpassing the 10-year high point of 2019. Dodge Data believes commercial construction will rise by 6% this year and 10% in 2022 mostly from warehouse construction, and says renewal of the FAST Act by the end of September could result in another $300 billion in nonbuilding construction, even before any infrastructure bill is considered.

Texas is poised to continue development of high-speed rail. Texas Central has signed a $16 billion contract with We Build and Lane Construction to lead the team that will build high-speed rail service between Dallas and Houston. We Build is active on five continents constructing railway and has extensive experience in high-speed rail. It will lead the build team in the 236-mile alignment, half of it on viaduct designed to reduce impact along its route. It will replicate the Japanese system in use today.

A massive water-diversion project underway around Moorehead, Minn./Fargo, N.D. is gaining ground. There’s at least six more years of work ahead for the $3.2 billion project to divert the Red River from the banks when spring flooding occurs. Three massive gated control structures are in process of being built and one of the largest ever for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A 12-mile dam will also help control water flow when completed, along with a 30-mile channel to take the Red River around Fargo and stop the annual flooding that has caused chaos for years.

Mark your calendars for Caterpillar’s MINExpo 2021 experience in Las Vegas as well as creating a digital experience. September 13 thru the 15th are the dates for the expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Central Hall with the theme, “Together We’re Mining Better.” The show celebrates Cat’s partnership with the mining industry and the ways it assists customers to mine more efficiently, effectively, safely and sustainably. Product displays and new equipment unveils will highlight Cat’s exhibit, so make your plans now to visit the Cat MINExpo 2021 in September at Las Vegas.

In closing: we are judged by what we finish, not by what we start.