Western offers stainless steel MVP 3 V-plow

Western MVP 3 V Plow

Western has announced that it is now offering a stainless steel version of its MVP 3 V-plow, an improved version of the company’s MVP PLUS V-plow.

Introduce in 2013, the plow features flared wings that extend from the center to the outer edges at varying heights depending on the model.

Blades are available in widths ranging from 7 feet, 6 inches to 9 feet, 6 inches.

The plow is designed with a reinforced blade structure with eight vertical ribs, a large center hinge pin, a lift ram with a 1 3/4-inch diameter cylinder and a T-frame design.

The dual-trip edge protection prevents damage to the plow or truck or injury to the operator when traveling over bumps and hidden obstacles.

New Hampshire Legislature passes 4.2-cent gas tax increase

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The New Hampshire House this week passed a bill that would increase the state’s gas tax by 4.2 cents per gallon, the Concord Monitor reports.

The bill is now headed to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who said she intends to sign it.

“I look forward to signing this bipartisan legislation into law so we can keep New Hampshire’s economy moving forward by advancing critical road and bridge projects and finishing the long-overdue expansion of I-93,” Hassan said in a statement.

The bill is set to take effect July 1 and will raise the state’s fuel tax from 18 cents per gallon to 22.2 cents per gallon, representing the first gas tax hike in New Hampshire in 23 years.

The tax is expected to bring in $32 million each year, which will be used to repair state and local roads and bridges.

The report notes that the bill divvies up the funding between specific projects:

  • 42 percent will go toward bonding to widen a portion of interstate 93

  • 33 percent will be used for local road and bridge repairs

  • 25 percent will be used to repair secondary state roads in fiscal years 2015 and 2016

Legislators will repeal the gas tax increase in 20 years, or when bonding for the I-93 widening project has been paid off.

In addition to increasing the gas tax, the bill removes the toll at Exit 12 on the Everett Turnpike and creates a commission to study the efficiency of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, according to the report.

The report notes that the bill’s critics argue that the state isn’t using making the best use of current highway funding.

According to the report, state law requires 68.5 percent of money in the highway fund to go to NHDOT and up to 30 to go to the state Department of Safety. However, lawmakers have sent more money to the Safety Department and other agencies in recent years.

Michigan DOT invests $1.1 million in safety improvements with Midland roundabout

roundabout sign

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced on Thursday that it will begin work on a new roundabout in Midland on Monday.

Construction was originally scheduled to begin in early April, but the agency said frost delayed the project.

Related: Roundabouts And Intersections: Two Traffic Control Devices, Many Options

The DOT said the project, located just east of Washington Street along M-20/US-10 Business Route (BR) at the Patrick Road crossover, represents $1.1 million in safety improvements, adding that the goal of the roundabout is to increase motorist safety.

Roundabouts are easy to navigate and safer than traditional intersections,” said Bill Mayhew, MDOT Mt. Pleasant Transportation Service Center manager. “Roundabouts have been proven to safely decrease traffic delays and congestion.”

Improvements include a higher elevation than the current crossover, a 25 mph speed limit within the roundabout and warning signs and other traffic devices that alert motorists to lower their speed as they approach the roundabout.

The roadway will also be straightened, offering motorists a clearer view as they approach the roundabout.

The project is scheduled for completion in late July.

Find out which state leads the nation in construction job losses

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After Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, pummeling the New Jersey shore in particular, businesses in 113 of 565 New Jersey municipalities experienced a combined total of $382 million in commercial property loss, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

As a hurricane and post-tropical cyclone, Sandy was responsible for 117 deaths in the U.S. and 69 more in Canada and the Caribbean, according to a CNN report.

This destruction, however, meant massive rebuilding was necessary in New Jersey.

Related: Transportation gains 7.9k jobs in March

Governor Chris Christie estimated $36.9 billion for its repair and recovery from the storm, according to “The Economic Impact of Hurricane Sandy: Potential Economic Activity Lost and Gained in New Jersey and New York.” (See Page 17 of the report for Superstorm Sandy’s impact on the construction industry.)

The report also noted that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated nearly $42 billion for its repair and recovery from the storm. Under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, Congress authorized $50.5 billion in January 2013 in supplemental disaster funding for 12 states and the District of Columbia affected by the storm.

This resulted in the New Jersey construction industry experiencing relatively steady growth in the months after Hurricane Sandy, according to the economic impact report. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the construction industry grew by 3.8 percent, adding 4,500 jobs between November 2012 and June 2013. Construction employment has also increased in New York (statewide, including those areas not affected) since the end of the storm. Construction employment grew by 4.7 percent, adding 14,100 jobs from November 2012 to June 2013.

Related: Foxx: Insolvent transportation system could cost 700k jobs

However, that trend hasn’t continued. In fact, New Jersey led the nation in construction job loss last year, The [New Jersey] Record reports. From March 2013 through March 2014, New Jersey lost 4,600 construction jobs, a 3.4-percent drop year over year, according to an analysis of federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). New Jersey construction employment dropped to 131,500 from 136,100 during that 12-month period, AGC said, according to The Record report. This decline in New Jersey’s construction industry sector is more than any other state in the nation.

For an industry that has been hit so hard with the economic downturn, this is troubling. The harsh winter New Jersey encountered this year as well as red tape and bureaucratic delays are being blamed for the bleak figures.

Charles Steindel, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury, says the numbers that are typically analyzed are corrected for normal seasonal variation. However, he says, this has been an atypical winter. “…this winter has been far from normal,” Steindel said in The Record report. “The average temperature in New Jersey from December to March was 31.7 degrees — 4 degrees colder than the average for the last 20 years. With such bitter cold, compounded by the heavy snowfalls in January and February, construction was at an unusually low ebb. We anticipate that the spring thaw will be reflected in better construction numbers.”

Although the numbers are anticipated to rise, a recent report in USA Today adds to the concern. The report noted that, according to figures from the Census Bureau, starts of new single-family homes fell to 14.5 percent, their weakest level since mid-2013. The annual sales rate was 384,000, down from February’s revised pace of 449,000. The original estimate was 440,000. Economists had predicted an annual rate of 450,000 for March, according to the median forecast in Action Economics survey.

Iowa DOT uses facial recognition to catch 40-year fugitive

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One man who escaped from a North Carolina prison 40 years ago is again behind bars because of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The agency used facial recognition technology — the same technology police in Massachusetts used to identify one of the Boston marathon bombers — to catch the man after he tried to use two different names to register for a vehicle and apply for a driver’s license, WHO-TV 13 reports.

The facial recognition software measured the man’s eye locations from the photo taken for his driver’s license, converted photo to a template and converted the template to an algorithm consisting of lines and dots. The software compared his new photo to others in the system and found a match, alerting the agency to his real identity.

According to the report, the man will likely go back to North Carolina to serve the remaining 17 years of his sentence.

Obama to present Congress with proposed transportation reauthorization bill

Obama-infrastructure-speech-32913President Barack Obama is preparing to present his proposed $302 billion, four-year transportation reauthorization bill to Congress.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced on the DOT’s Fast Lane blog that the president plans to send a draft of the legislation to lawmakers, though no specific timetable has been presented.

“Soon, the Obama Administration will do exactly what the President promised in St. Paul, Minnesota,  earlier this year: present Congress with a surface transportation reauthorization proposal,” Foxx wrote.

“This bill will support millions of American jobs repairing and modernizing our roads, bridges, railways, and transit systems,” he continued. “And it will pave the way forward by increasing access to the ladders of opportunity that help Americans get ahead.”

Foxx previously noted that he thinks President Obama’s proposal could solve transportation funding problems, including the nearly-insolvent Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which could run out of money by the end of August. The DOT chief has pointed out that an insolvent HTF would delay or halt projects in every state, costing hundreds of jobs.

However, recent data from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that the HTF, which is funded by an 18.4-cent-per gallon gas tax that has remained unchanged for 20 years, would still go bankrupt under the president’s proposed budget.

Both the House and Senate are also working on solutions. Earlier this month, the House GOP introduced its $1.014 trillion budget, which aims to maintain HTF solvency, while four top transportation senators have unveiled Senate priorities for a new surface transportation bill.

Astec Industries announces Q1 2014 results; net sales down 4%, domestic sales up 8%

AstecLOGOAstec Industries saw a 4-percent decrease in net sales in the first quarter of 2014, but domestic sales were up 8 percent for the same period, according to results released by the company on Tuesday.

The company reported that net sales for the quarter, which ended March 31, were $238.7 million, down 4 percent from the $247.8 million in net sales in the first quarter of 2013. Additionally, earnings were down year-over-year. The company reported $9.5 million in earnings or $0.41 per diluted share for the first quarter of this year — a 28-percent drop per diluted share from the $13.2 million in earnings or $.57 per diluted share in the first quarter of 2013.

Domestic sales were up this quarter, though the company saw a decrease in international sales. Astec Industries reported $175.5 million in domestic sales for the first quarter of 2014 — an 8-percent increase over the 161.9 million in domestic sales in the first quarter of the previous year. International sales were down 26 percent. The company reported $63.2 million in international sales for the first quarter of 2014, compared to $85.9 million a year ago.

The company’s backlog was up 8 percent from $276.5 million in the first quarter of 2013 to $299.6 million in the same period of 2014.

The domestic backlog was also up, while the international backlog fell year over year. The company reported a domestic backlog of $167.3 million for the quarter, which is 18 percent higher than the $167.3 million reported a year ago. The international backlog was down 6 percent from $109.2 million in the first quarter of 2013 to $102.7 million in the same period of 2014.

Astec Industries CEO Benjamin G. Brock says that, despite a decrease in total sales, he is encouraged by the company’s gross margin as well as ConExpo-Con/Agg sales.

“Although total sales decreased slightly we held our gross margin steady which is a testament to our focus on lean manufacturing and cost management,” Brock says. “Our presence at ConExpo in early March added $4 million to our S,G,A&E expenses for the quarter, however, we were pleased by the strong attendance in our booth and the interactions we had with customers.”

Brock also notes that the company’s latest product — the Telestack, which was released April 1 — is expected to boost earnings this year: “We expect them to be immediately accretive to earnings and to positively reinforce our backlog and outlook for the remainder of the year.”

AEM adds new graphics to Roller Compactor, Directional Drilling Tracking Equipment Safety Manuals

Roller Compactor Safety Manual AEMThe Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) has updated its Roller Compactor and Directional Drilling Tracking Equipment Safety Manuals, adding new pictorial graphics.

AEM says the graphics “conform to ISO and ANSI standards” and “more clearly reinforce manual safety text, and they harmonize with current machine safety sign and manufacturer manual practices.”

The updated manuals are available at shop.aem.org. Additionally, the graphics can be downloaded through the AEM Pictorial Database.

TSA collects thousands of dollars in left-behind change

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Do you remember the days after high school graduation or back in college when you’d search your car or couch cushions to find loose change to pay for your late-night coffee while studying – or, ahem, that late-night meal after an evening out at various establishments with friends (consuming only coffee and soda pop, of course!)?

I do. I’m far past my college days, but I actually did that a couple of weeks ago while at the car wash hoping to find quarters so I could vacuum my car. (Hey—it’s an age of people often paying for items with credit or debit cards. I rarely have much cash or change on me.)

If I worked for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the airport, I’d never be searching for change. In fact, I’d have thousands of dollars right in front me.

According to a December 2013 article in the Washington Post, TSA collected $531,395.22 in change left behind at checkpoints. The fiscal 2012 report, obtained by the news agency, reports that TSA collected about $499,000 in U.S. currency, and another $32,000 in foreign currency, at their checkpoints.

TSA is required by federal law to report to Congress the amount of unclaimed money it keeps every year.

Current law requires the TSA spend that money on providing civil aviation security, according to the Washington Post report. However, in 2013, the government agency only used about $6,500 of the money it collected in 2012. In the TSA’s report to Congress, the money was spent on the translation of some airport checkpoint signage into foreign languages and on miscellaneous administrative overhead, the Washington Post reports.

In early December 2013, the House also passed a bill –  the TSA Loose Change Act – that would require TSA to give nonprofits such as the United Service Organization nearly $500,000 in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies it collects every year at the airport screening checkpoints, USA Today reports. The money would help fund airport programs that support service members as they go from city to city, according to the report.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida), who was the main sponsor of the TSA Loose Change Act – says what seems like a small amount of change left behind actually amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year and it can help the U.S. military.

“The TSA has been keeping the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters from your change purse to pay for their bloated bureaucracy,” Miller says in a press release from his office. “If TSA representatives get to play ‘finders keepers’ with your hard-earned cash, what’s the incentive to try to get the loose change to its rightful owners?”

He says he would rather see the unclaimed change help military personnel on their way home from the battlefield than let TSA keep it.

“The lost change should be put to good use, and I know that the thousands of coins will have a positive impact on millions of our nation’s warriors,” Miller says in the press release.

According to the USA Today report, the following 10 airports reported finding the most money left behind by travelers at airport checkpoints during fiscal year 2012:

1) Miami International: $39,613

2) McCarran International (Las Vegas): $26,900

3) O’Hare International (Chicago): $22,116

4) Los Angeles International: $21,916

5) John F. Kennedy International: $21,201

6) Dallas/Fort Worth International: $20,190

7) San Francisco International: $19,874

8) Washington Dulles International: $16,537

9) Logan International (Boston): $16,406

10) George Bush Intercontinental (Houston): $16,082

For a video from the Washington Post’s Reid Wilson about the TSA Loose Change Act, click here.

INFOGRAPHIC: Engineering has second-highest fatality rate in construction

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 3.58.36 PMConstruction Safety Day, which takes place Wednesday, is a good chance to brush up on safe practices.

Though motorists do play a big role in highway construction site safety, it’s your responsibility as a worker to ensure you are following all safety guidelines.

Between 2003 and 2012, the engineering sector of the construction industry had an average of fatality rate of 17 percent annually — the second highest percentage, according to information compiled by Viewpoint based on data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s a percentage that could definitely afford to be lowered.

For more safety statistics, check out the infographic below.

Click image to view large version

Infographic courtesy of Viewpoint.

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