Highway and bridge construction starts climb 27 percent

construction-employeeThe value of new construction starts dipped four percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $589.8 billion. According to Dodge Data & Analytics, the decline followed a 10 percent increase reported in September, which was the strongest month for total construction starts thus far this year.

However, highway and bridge construction starts saw a big boost in October, climbing 27 percent. The boost was was supported by the $598 million Northwest Corridor project in Atlanta GA.

Through the first ten months of 2014, the top five states for highway and bridge construction starts were Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio.  States ranked six through ten were Florida, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, and New Jersey.

Aside from highway and bridge construction, the rest of the industry saw a decline. Both nonresidential building and nonbuilding construction lost momentum in October, while residential building posted a moderate gain given further growth for multifamily housing.  During the first ten months of 2014, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were $475.8 billion, up five percent from the same period a year ago.

Nonresidential building dipped 14 percent in October to $195.2 billion (annual rate), following its 13 percent increase in September.

Nonbuilding construction, decreased nine percent to $148.7 billion (annual rate) in October.  The decline was reportedly due to a 67 percent plunge for electric utilities after unusually strong activity in September.

Residential building in October climbed 11 percent to $245.9 billion (annual rate).  After a 20 percent slide September, multifamily housing had a particularly strong month in October, up 40 percent.

The five percent increase for total construction starts on an unadjusted basis during the first ten months of 2014 was the result of mixed behavior by the three main construction sectors.  Nonresidential building advanced 14 percent year-to-date, with commercial building up 14 percent; manufacturing building up 52 percent; and institutional building up five percent.

Residential building improved seven percent year-to-date, with single family housing up only two percent while multifamily housing increased by 25 percent.  Nonbuilding construction has dropped eight percent year-to-date, with public works down seven percent and electric utilities down 14 percent.

Total construction starts during the January-October period of 2014 showed growth in all five regions, the South Central is up 13 percent; the South Atlantic and the West are both up four percent; and the Northeast and the Midwest have both climbed one percent.

Michigan Senate votes to raise gas tax

senate congressThe Michigan Senate has passed a bill to raise the state’s gas tax. The bill would approximately double Michigan’s fuel tax to raise about $1 billion a year more to fix transportation infrastructure.

If the bill passes the House, the gas tax could increase from 19 cents a gallon all the way to 41 cents a gallon in 2018.

Although some may not be in favor of such a big tax increase, the Michigan Department of Transportation says the money is definitely needed in order for the state to improve and maintain the conditions of its roads and bridges.

“We’ve been under funding infrastructure in the state for a long time,” said Dan Weingarten of MDOT. ”We’ve got to start investing in that infrastructure and the longer we put it off, the more expensive it’s going to be.”

The House is not expected to begin reviewing the bill until early December. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll pass the Senate’s bill as-is. However, there is a strong possibility that it will alter the bill slightly before sending it back to the Senate.

Eight students 2014 MAPA scholarships

MAPAThe Minnesota Asphalt Pavement Association (MAPA) has recognized eight students with 2014 MAPA Scholarships. This is the first Annual MAPA Scholarship program for MAPA and its members. MAPA Scholarships will be presented annually to deserving post high school students. Applications were rated based on career goals, essay, employment, extracurricular activities, and scholastic achievement.

The scholarship award winners, hometown and career goals are:

Maddie Duininck, Willmar, MN – Business

Kelsey Behnke, Albert Lea, MN – Business & Political Science

Lisa Kittleson, Young America, MN – Marketing Communications

Samantha Block, Spicer, MN – Political Science

Torey Malerich, St. Michael, MN – Accounting & Management

Aaron Rinta, Aitkin, MN – Mechanical Engineering

Haley Luftman, Duluth, MN – Psychology

Genevieve Bowersox, Stillwater, MN – Nursing

“Recent statistics show that 70 percent of all students graduating from four-year colleges have student loan debt,” said Jill Thomas, P.E., executive director of MAPA. “According to a government data analysis, the class of 2014 graduated with the largest debt in history. These scholarships were created in an effort to help alleviate that burden to the next generation.”

MAPA raised funds for its scholarship program through an annual golf event, which is supported by the 130 member companies of MAPA and raised $22,500. MAPA represents the asphalt pavement industry in Minnesota through active education and research programs, as well as by working with Minnesota Department of Transportation and other stakeholders to ensure that Minnesota’s asphalt roads are among the best in the nation.

What causes the most damage to our nation’s bridges?


We surveyed all 50 state Departments of Transportation (DOT) and the District of Columbia’s DOT for the Better Roads Annual Bridge Inventory. In doing so, we took a look at what causes the most damage to bridges. Here’s what the DOTs said:

Key: (A)ge (C)orrosion (T)raffic (O)ther

Delaware                       AC
Maryland                       AC
South Carolina            ACT
North Carolina            ACT
Arizona                          ACT
New Mexico                 AO
Alabama                         AT
North Dakota               AT
Montana                        C
New York                      CA
Rhode Island               CA
Utah                                CA
District Of Columbia CA
Missouri                        CAT
Oklahoma                      CAT
Arkansas                        CAT
Hawaii                           CAT
South Dakota             CATO
Virginia                         COTA
West Virginia             COTA
Nebraska                      CTA
Kentucky                       CTAO
Texas                              CTOA
Minnesota                    O
Colorado                      O
Ohio                                OCAT
Washington                 OCTA
Louisiana                      OTCA
California                     TAC
Florida                           TC
Kansas                           TCO

Source: 2014 Better Roads Bridge Inventory


Tensar names Mike Lawrence Executive Vice President of America

226708_Tensar_Logo_RedTensar International, a leader in geosynthetic construction technology, has appointed Mike Lawrence as Executive Vice President of America. Lawrence will spearhead strategic leadership support in the United States, Canada and Latin American regions.

“We are proud to have Mike join our Tensar team in this crucial role,” said Don Meltzer, Tensar President and CEO. “With his vast industry experience and leadership capabilities, we are confident that we will see immediate growth within untapped markets as well as the furthering of our brand across the Americas.”

Lawrence will oversee the sales and marketing teams within Tensar’s Roadway and Grade Separation Solution product lines.

“My goal is to grow our business across these regions, develop and enhance loyal relationships, and introduce Tensar’s brand to new, growing markets,” Lawrence said. “I am extremely excited to work with the second-to-none sales and marketing team behind Tensar’s high standard product offerings.”

Prior to joining Tensar, Lawrence dedicated over 30 years of experience in the building and engineered materials sector. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President & General Manager of Engineered Products for the Americas region at Johns Manville. Lawrence holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from American University in Washington, D.C., and an MBA in International Business from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

Update: MnDOT mine expansion will result in state's tallest bridge

A billboard on Highway 53 that’s part of a campaign against relocation. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/StarTribune.

A billboard on Highway 53 that’s part of a campaign against relocation. Photo: Jeff Wheeler/StarTribune.


In late October Aggregates Manager reported that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) was facing a tough decision over a mine expansion. MnDOT was being has to act quickly in coming up with a solution to reroute a busy four-lane highway.

At the time, we reported on of MnDOT’s options was to build one of the state’s tallest bridges over some of the hardest rock on the planet. After much consideration, that’s the route MnDOT has decided to go.

The project is expected to cost about $220 million.

Despite the idea of building a 200-foot-high, 1,100-foot-long bridge, MnDOT says the route poses fewer challenges and had the lowest cost of all alternatives.

“From an engineering and cost point-of-view, this route stands out,” MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle said in a statement encouraging public comment. Public meetings are scheduled in Virginia for Dec. 4 and Jan. 1.

VIDEO: CBS’s '60 Minutes' spotlights America's neglected infrastructure

Ray LaHood

Ray LaHood

In case you missed it, CBS’s “60 Minutes” did a feature on America’s neglected transportation infrastructure on Sunday. During the segment, 60 minutes talked to former transportation secretary of transportation Ray LaHood.

“Our infrastructure’s on life supports right now. That’s what we’re on,” LaHood told 60 minutes.

As the 60 minutes report points out, nearly 70,000 roads and bridges in the United States are structurally deficient. Unfortunately, the only way the country’s infrastructure will be improved is if there’s a long-term agreement on a new and improved Highway Trust Fund.

As LaHood says, the current Highway Trust Fund will run out by Spring 2015 if Congress doesn’t come together.

“That’s the pot of money that over 50 years helped us create the best interstate system in the world, which is now falling apart,” LaHood said.

Watch the entire 60 Minutes segment on transportation infrastructure by clicking here.

California, Florida DOTs named winners of America's Transportation Awards

FDOT’s Mathews Bridge.

FDOT’s Mathews Bridge.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have announced that California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) won the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice awards in the 2014 America’s Transportation Awards competition.

A record 73 transportation projects from 36 states and the District of Columbia were nominated in the 7th annual competition. The 10 projects that received the highest number of points in four regional competitions were in the running for the top prizes announced today, at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Charlotte.

“There were many projects worthy of recognition in this year’s competition,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director. “But the Caltrans and Florida DOT projects exemplify the best of the best. Their use of innovation and creative problem-solving improved the lives of the nearby communities and their economies. We sincerely tip our hats to all the hard working professionals who helped make these projects a reality.”

Caltrans’ San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge East Span project received the Grand Prize, determined by a panel of judges. The $6.3 billion project replaced a nearly 80-year-old structure with a new, modern bridge featuring advanced seismic response technology. The bridge, which was constructed to last more than 100 years, is designed to accommodate future expansions of light rail and other modes of transportation.

FDOT’s Mathews Bridge Impact and Emergency Response Project earned more than 300,000 online votes, making it the winner of the People’s Choice Award. In September 2013, a vessel collided with the Mathews Bridge – causing $3.8 million in damage to the structure. FDOT’s emergency repair plan reopened the vital Jacksonville crossing to vehicle traffic only 33 days after the collision and 12 days ahead of schedule.

“AAA congratulates Caltrans and Florida DOT for these two award-winning projects that clearly illustrate the mobility and safety benefits gained from well planned and executed transportation projects,” said Jill Ingrassi, AAA managing director of government relations and traffic safety advocacy. “Shining a spotlight on projects like these that are under budget, innovative and add value to the community and quality of life reinforces how important transportation investment is to our daily lives.”

All of the projects in the competition were judged in three categories: “Under Budget,” “Best Use of Innovation,” and a new category this year “Quality of Life/Community Development.”

“The Chamber is proud to help highlight the creative and effective work being done around the country to improve America’s transportation and infrastructure systems,” said Janet Kavinoky, executive director of Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Projects like Caltrans’ and the Florida DOT’s are making a real difference in repairing and modernizing our nation’s infrastructure. Their positive impacts are evident and should serve as examples of the potential for innovation and improvement in other states and communities.”

The Grand Prize and People’s Choice award winners were presented with $10,000 cash prizes to be used to support a charity or transportation-related scholarship program of the agencies’ choosing.

Texas leads U.S. equipment purchases in Q3, sales down 19 percent from 2013

The number of road construction equipment buyers in Texas was by far the most in the U.S during Q3 2014.

The number of road construction equipment buyers in Texas was by far the most in the U.S during Q3 2014.

If you believe everything is bigger in Texas, than it should come as no surprise that the state also needs the most road construction equipment. At 68 buyers during the third quarter of 2014, Texas construction companies financed the most road construction equipment in the United States.

The numbers are according to an analysis of Equipment Data Associates data segmenting out companies likely to be engaged in road construction.

The top 10 states in the number of buyers for both new and used road construction equipment is as follows:

1: Texas (68 buyers)
2: Florida (58)
3: North Carolina (52)
4: California (48)
5: Georgia (35)
6: Minnesota and Pennsylvania (tied at 32)
7: South Carolina and New Jersey  (tied at 29)
8: Missouri (28)
9. New York (26)
10: Colorado (24)

Excavators led the way for highway and bridge construction companies with 347 financed purchases during Q3. That’s 21 percent of all equipment purchased. In addition, 200 wheel loaders were purchased (12 percent of the total), 125 compact track loaders (8 percent), 121 double drum vibratory rollers (7.6 percent), and 101 crawler dozers (6.9 percent).

All in all, 1,625 road construction units were financed during Q3. That’s down 10 percent from Q3 of 2013 when 1,813 units were purchased. The amount of buyers from Q3 2013 (874) decreased by 5 percent during the same quarter of 2014 (828).

Out of all purchases, 922 units were new equipment, including 197 excavators (21 percent), 136 wheel loaders (15 percent) and 97 compact track loaders (10 percent).

A total of 703 used units were purchased including 150 excavators (21 percent), 64 wheel loaders (9 percent) and 58 crawler dozers (8 percent).

When it comes to used equipment, North Carolina had 30 buyers, behind only Texas with 39.There were several more companies buying new equipment (503 buyers) during Q3 than used equipment (433 buyers).

When it came to new road construction equipment purchases in Q3, Florida at 40 buyers edged out Texas’s 39 buyers. However, Texas led all other states in the number of used equipment buyers, at 39. North Carolina came in second with 30 buyers.

*Editor’s note: The road construction segment includes companies in two SIC codes determined to have road construction capability, buying a variety of highway and bridge construction equipment, including dozers, excavators, wheel loaders, track steers, skid steers, etc. Equipment Data Associates is a division of Randall-Reilly and tracks public Uniform Commercial Code-1 filings submitted by lenders in financed equipment transactions.

Trucker cited in 2013 Skagit River bridge collapse

The collapsed section of I-5 in Washington over the Skagit River. The bridge has since been repaired. The May 2013 truck-bridge collision that caused a portion of Interstate 5 to fall into the Skagit River in Washington was in part due to a load too tall for the truck carrying it, according to a report released this week by the Washington State Patrol.

WSP says the truck was permitted to carry loads no taller than 15 feet 9 inches, but the load that struck the bridge was 15 feet 11 inches.

The bridge collapse occurred when a 2010 Kenworth towing a 1997 Aspen flatbed with casing shed struck the bridge in the southbound far right lane. The bridge collapsed after the truck crossed. No one was injured in the collapse.

Truck driver William D.W. Scott of Alberta, Canada, was cited by WSP for Negligent Driving in the Second Degree — an infraction that carries a $550 fine.

The driver of the load is legally responsible for an over-height load, WSP says in its report, not the driver of a pilot car or support vehicle. WSP makes mention of the pilot car driver because the National Transportation Safety Board concluded in a July 2014-released report that the pilot car’s clearance pole hit the bridge, signaling the load was too tall to clear.

The driver, however, was on his phone and distracted. NTSB also blamed bad route planning by the carrier, an inadequate permitting process and a lack of low-clearance warning signs.

This article was written by James Jaillet, associate editor for Overdrive Online and CCJ Digital.


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