Capitol Update 5/02/2022
Report: Construction workers on the front lines of climate change risks
A new California legislative analysis suggests climate change poses a particular risk to employees who cannot avoid outdoor exposure, including construction workers, and that the risk is increasing. It says that construction workers face increased occupational risks and health hazards from greater exposure to elements like heat and air pollution. They are also at greater risk of decreased productivity and disruptions that make work less stable and predictable, such as extreme heat and wildfire smoke threats shortening the viable construction season or causing work slowdowns. Certain populations carry a larger burden, according to the report from the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office. At higher risk are low- and middle-wage workers and Latinos, because that population makes up a disproportionate share — about 60% — of California’s outdoor workforce.
A proliferation of differing rules for achieving diversity in construction and a shortage of minority- and women-owned businesses are among the factors complicating efforts to bolster diversity in the industry, says Paula Finch, an attorney at Greensfelder. Contractors need to demonstrate a good-faith effort to meet diversity goals, but compliance monitoring programs often lack the resources to keep up, Finch says. Full Story: Construction Dive
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing $2 billion in new spending on renewable energy, power reliability and water conservation projects across the state. This would be in addition to $5 billion the state has already allocated in response to the ongoing drought and to achieve greater water resilience. Full Story: Turlock Journal (Calif.)
Earth Day groundbreaking for world’s largest wildlife crossing
Endangered big cats and other animals will soon get a way to safely traverse a 10-lane Los Angeles-area highway. A new wildlife crossing broke ground on Earth Day, April 22, according to the National Wildlife Federation, and will be the largest of its kind in the world. The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is a public-private partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and the California government. Other parties involved in the creation and construction of the project include the National Park Service and the city of Agoura Hills, California, where the crossing is located, according to the release. Private donations made up 60% of the $90 million price tag, according to The Guardian, and the project is expected to open in early 2025. Caltrans, California’s Department of Transportation, will develop, build and maintain the crossing.
Construction is underway in Southern California on what will be the world’s largest highway crossing dedicated to wildlife. The $90 million bridge, which will also span a feeder road, will stretch 200 feet across US 101. Full Story: The Associated Press (4/22)
AECOM, Balfour Beatty, Fluor, Turner and WSP have all secured major contracts of at least $200 million from federal or state entities over the past six months. Jeffrey Steele looks at a handful of the infrastructure projects, including AECOM’s work on the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla.; Balfour Beatty’s work on the Caltrain Electrification Project; and WSP’s work for the Illinois Tollway. Full Story: Construction Dive
OSHA wants to make injury data public, but employers fear a PR nightmare
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has for a second time proposed increased injury and illness reporting for employers — as well as a change that would make that data public — and business advocates are again pushing back.
OSHA said the changes will allow it to better identify workplaces where workers are at high risk and empower workers by increasing transparency. Employer representatives say that could translate to increased union activity and public relations issues for companies with high injury and illness rates.
Employers are already required to report injury and illness data using the Department of Labor subagency’s Forms 300, 300A and 301.
Nearly all companies with 10 or more employees, with the exception of some industries OSHA has exempted, should understand the OSHA recordkeeping requirements, J. Micah Dickie, an associate at Fisher Phillips, told HR Dive. Failure to do so can result in penalties around $14,000 per violation, he said, and repeated failures can cost employers more than $145,000 per violation. And OSHA’s March proposal would represent a “drastic” shift for many, Dickie said.
The proposed regulations are similar to an Obama-era rule that the Trump administration ultimately rescinded. Among other things, OSHA said the regulations would:
- Require establishments with 100 or more employees in certain high-hazard industries to electronically submit information from those forms once a year.
- Update the system used to determine industries subject to the submission requirement.
- Remove the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees not in a designated industry to electronically submit information from Form 300A annually.
More than half of civil contractors surveyed by Dodge Construction Network are looking ahead to wider profit margins this year, and 76% are very confident work will be available, according to a first-quarter survey. However, the optimism is tempered by expectations that the bipartisan infrastructure law could add strain to ongoing labor, cost and supply chain problems. Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics (4/26)
At the end of the first quarter, just 961 hotel projects were under construction nationally, down 27% year over year, according to Lodging Econometrics. Early planning numbers rose 24% from a year earlier to a record 2,218. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet
Traffic engineers in Southern California are combining orange pavement markings with others in a bid to make work zones safer. Other states have experimented with orange markings by themselves, but the California trial uses orange as contrast color, one engineer explains. Full Story: Route Fifty
Lessons from California: Tips to keep transit projects on time, on budget
There’s a problem with American transit projects: they consistently run over budget and fall behind schedule. A new study from UC Berkeley delves into five California rail case studies to find out why. Local agencies tend to poorly plan infrastructure work and don’t have enough capacity to manage megaprojects, and the typically-used procurement methods create a management bottleneck, according to the Ethan Elkind et al study. Agencies can apply lessons from the California cases to many other U.S. transit projects, which will accelerate as the federal infrastructure act rolls out with funding for rail, bus networks and more. The researchers suggest that states staff up transit agencies and plan more extensively in early stages, and reform their procurement methods to give builders more say in project design.
White House officials are reportedly aiming to re-introduce the Build Back Better bill and hope to get it through Congress, although it is expected to be radically less ambitious than previous versions, with few if any provisions for social spending. While there is little time left before lawmakers leave Congress to start campaigning for midterm elections, Bharat Ramamurti of the National Economic Council said: “The president has made it clear that he thinks there is still time for Congress to enact the proposals that he has put forward to lower costs for Americans.” Full Story: Financial Times (subscription required) The Hill New York Post
Artificial intelligence is being applied to concrete mixtures to reduce their carbon emissions at Facebook parent Meta’s new data center in Dekalb, Ill. Meta says it’s encouraged by testing of the slab-on-grade concrete’s performance in a joint project with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois-based concrete supplier Ozinga Bros. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet
A contested $3 billion, 30-year project by the University of California at San Francisco to expand hospital and housing at its Parnassus Heights campus is the biggest among nine $500 million-plus hospital projects recently announced. Marissa Plescia takes a brief look at this and the eight others, including a $1.6 billion flagship hospital planned by Indiana University Health. Full Story: Becker’s Hospital Review
Economic conditions have forced New York-based Brookfield Properties to pause construction of a 3.5 million-square-foot mixed-use development at San Francisco’s historic Pier 70. The development is a joint venture with the Port of San Francisco, with $237.4 million now spent on the project’s first phase, including infrastructure, road work and one structural restoration. Full Story: The Real Deal