Construction News: Dodge Forecasts 7% Starts Growth through End of 2021

Construction headline tracker includes: materials costs outstrip bid prices; 30 years after levying the tax, LA starts a new road; largest public project ever in RI enters final phase; US craftsmen hand-hew new truss for Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral

Total construction starts in the U.S. are expected to increase by 7% in the remainder of 2021. That’s the latest from Dodge Data Chief Economist Richard Branch. A lot of progress has been made since February of 2020 when the pandemic began and, says Branch, the latest in delta variant outbreaks has curbed the progression. Economies in some states such as Idaho, Nebraska, Montana and Rhode Island have recovered completely, while the Mid Atlantic region continues to lag behind. Branch also says the rise in single-family home construction is solid, expanding 9% thus far in 2021. However, threatening rises in materials prices continue to challenge the industry. Multifamily building starts are at a 5% pace for the year while nonresidential-sector starts continue at a 9% increase.

The latest Producer Price Index from AGC shows materials costs continued to outstrip bid prices in the year preceding July. The PPI for nonresidential building construction increased 1.7% from June and 4.4% year over year from July despite a recent drop in copper and lumber costs. And the Bureau of Labor Statistic numbers also show that material and service inputs of the PPI climbed 0.9% and 25.6% respectively. The agency claims that some price inputs rose at double and even triple year over year percentage rates. What many of you already know is that the costs for steel were up 109% for the year, while plywood and lumber costs jumped 82% for the same period, as bid prices have risen at diverse rates. And it looks like there’s no abatement in sight. It also gives significant insight into the threat to financial security for contractors.


It’s taken more than 30 years, but work is set to begin on a new roadway in Louisiana. That state’s DOT is about to begin a $46 million project in St. Tammany Parish to build a four-lane highway between Louisiana 40 at Bush and Interstate-12. Voters first approved the project 32 years ago and paid for it with a 4-cent-per-gallon jump in the Louisiana state gas tax. The tax took effect, but not the highway. Brown Industrial Corp. is the contractor on the three-phase project.


The largest single public works project in Rhode Island history is about to enter its final phase. Affectionately dubbed the Dig Big, it is a large tunnel being bored near the Seekonk River – the third and final phase of a combined sewer overflow program. The $1.3 billion effort is a joint venture of contractors CBNA, Barletta and AECOM to be completed by 2027. The 2.2-mile-long, 30-foot-diameter tunnel runs beneath Pawtucket, Rhode Island and Central Falls ranging from 115 feet to 155 feet below grade. When complete, it will be able to store up to 58.5 million gallons of overflow water.


Hats off to the Colorado DOT for its effort in clearing and rebuilding Interstate-70 through Glenwood Canyon of a major rock slide. Sixteen days of work involving thousands of labor hours and millions in federal emergency funding were involved before crews completed the job to rebuild the infrastructure following the July 29th rock slide from a local flood event. Hundreds of motorists were left stranded and the local economy suffered as a result.


A group of architecture students, carpenters and volunteers at Catholic University in Washington D.C. is working on a major truss for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the historic structure that sustained significant fire damage in 2019. Rebuilding of the centuries-old building is underway using methods dating back to 1345 when the cathedral was first constructed. The brand-new truss at 45 feet wide and 35 feet tall is being hewed by hand using medieval joining techniques. Even the national park service is involved with the intricate project of the truss expected to be shipped to Paris for installation next year.


Cat is introducing a host of new vehicles to its lineup. A 777G water solutions truck offers up a smarter, sustainable way to reduce road haul dust at mining and quarry sites. Integrating water tank truck and delivery systems into a single vehicle helps solve many watering issues for users. Built on the 777G truck platform, the vehicle uses 13% less fuel with its adaptive economy mode system while the water cannon can operate at engine idle speed, reducing fuel consumption by upwards of 50%. Cat is also introducing six new primary and secondary pulverizers for the delivery of high performance concrete demolition. The new pulverizer line includes three rotatable primary models the P318 P324 and P332. Featuring 360 degree rotation and three secondary pulverizers – P218, P224 and P232 – these new-generation machines feature technology delivering up to 52% faster cycle times, more tons per liter of fuel burned and are designed to fit 18 to 50 ton machines. All are built around Cat’s speedbooster technology found in multi processors for the concrete demolition field. We invite you to check out these new Cat machines at your local cat dealer soon.

In closing: utilize the word ‘triumph wisely. After all, it is just an ‘umph’ ahead of ‘try.’