SBE News

Capitol Update 8/29/2023

Construction employment up year over year in July

Construction jobs increased in 27 states in July compared with June, while construction jobs increased in 45 states and the District of Columbia in July compared with July 2022, according to an Associated General Contractors of America analysis of federal data. “While barely half the states added construction employees in July, that is due to the sector’s ultralow unemployment rate,” AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson says. “There is still plenty of demand, as shown by near-record construction job openings.” Full Story: AZ Big Media (Phoenix)

Concerns raised about latest Buy America guidance

Newly issued Buy America requirements for federal projects might pose difficulties, construction and transportation industry officials say. Confusion is still likely, even though the guidance improves on earlier versions, says Jimmy Christianson, vice president of government relations at the Associated General Contractors of America. “The No. 1 issue contractors will run into is being able to find manufacturers that will certify to them that their product or their material meet the requirements,” Christianson says. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)

Fed’s Barkin: Inflation could reaccelerate

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Thomas Barkin says continued strong economic data must leave policymakers open to the prospect that inflation could accelerate again. Rising consumer confidence and strong retail sales mean “the reacceleration scenario has come onto the table in a way that it really wasn’t three or four months ago,” Barkin said. Full Story: Reuters  

AGC analysis suggests relief from rising costs

Stress from rising prices for materials and services in nonresidential construction remains but has eased, as evidenced by a 0.2% price increase in July compared with June, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. Meanwhile, the producer price index for new nonresidential construction has posted a 1.4% decline for the same time period. Full Story: Daily Commercial News (Ontario)

FinCEN cracks down on construction payroll tax evasion

Growing payroll tax evasion and workers’ compensation fraud in the construction industry are the focus of a notice the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network has issued to financial institutions. FinCEN wants to crack down on hundreds of millions of dollars in losses tied to such fraud, which often involves shell companies and other tactics. Full Story: Construction Dive

Buttigieg acknowledges no quick fix for bridges

Despite an infrastructure drive, thousands of bridges needing repair are likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says. Figures from the Federal Highway Administration reveal more than 14,000 bridges have been rated in poor condition for at least a decade, with Buttigieg citing long-term neglect by Congress and previous administrations. Full Story: Scripps News 

Architecture Billings Index stays flat in July

Rising demand for commercial/industrial projects balanced out declines in the residential sector to leave the July Architecture Billings Index at a neutral score of 50. It was the third consecutive flat reading, although “new project work has been even stronger over this period,” says American Institute of Architects Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “This suggests that design work may finally begin to increase over the coming months, although somewhat modestly,” Baker says. Full Story: Archinect  

U. of Ill. facility to focus on autonomous construction

The University of Illinois plans to leverage $2.45 million from the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a research center dedicated to autonomous construction and related technology, such as control systems, AI, gap crossing and demolition, system architecture, and manufacturing technology. The program could receive an additional $1.8 million from USACE this year and $3.75 million next year. Full Story: Construction Dive

AI can aid security, risk management in construction

Construction is likely to be among understated industries in which AI makes a substantial difference, as opposed to high-profile uses capturing public attention, Rene Morkos writes. Morkos explores how AI can address some of the most pressing challenges in the industry, including security, risk management and scheduling. Full Story: Fast Company (tiered subscription model)  

Turner gives Volvo electric excavator a try

A light manufacturing reconfiguration project in Silicon Valley is serving as a test bed for Volvo Construction Equipment’s electric midsize excavator. Turner Construction is giving the 23-ton machine a trial run to perform backfilling, excavation and compaction while moving materials and placing utilities.

Full Story: Equipment World

Study: Sensors can track air pollution at work sites

Low-cost sensing technology can trace sources of air pollution on construction sites as an alternative to regulation but costlier and labor-intensive options, according to a study by the University of Birmingham. Testing at a high-speed rail construction site has demonstrated the viability of sensors versus methods that require special labs. Full Story: New Civil Engineer

Novel solutions protect crews in work zones

Driver behavior poses an ongoing hazard in work zones, but technological innovations are available to reduce risk. Mark Ludewig of AWP Safety explores several solutions, including automated flagger assistance devices and portable temporary rumble strips. Full Story: For Construction Pros  

FAA invests $121M in airport safety projects

The Federal Aviation Administration is giving $121 million to airports for infrastructure projects aimed at improving safety. The projects focus on relocating and improving taxiways. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet

Modifications sought for L.A. mixed-use development

A revised plan for a mixed-use residential development in Los Angeles calls for two seven-story buildings offering 327 apartments of various sizes and ground floor commercial space and parking. Aragon Properties’ application to the Los Angeles Department of City Planning follows an approved plan submitted years earlier and seeks entitlements for the site. Full Story: Urbanize Media/Los Angeles  

Granite hired for $72M Calif. highway project

Granite Construction plans to begin construction in September to improve state Route 1 in Capitola, Calif., under a $72 million contract. The work is expected to take about two years, reconstructing a vehicle bridge and adding northbound and southbound auxiliary lanes, bus-on-shoulder facilities and a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Full Story: The Construction Broadsheet

Repairs underway on Calif. levee breached in March

Repairs have begun on the Pajaro River levee in Pajaro, Calif., and the Army Corps of Engineers has moved up to next year extensive construction that had been scheduled for 2025. The work comes after heavy rains breached the levee in March, causing catastrophic flooding. Full Story: KPIX-TV (San Francisco)/Bay City News Service

Palo Alto, Calif., wastewater facility weighs expansion

Renovations worth $300 million are underway at the Regional Water Quality Control Plant in Palo Alto, Calif., but staffers might acquire nearby land for expansion to add an industrial facility and to future-proof the wastewater facility for the next 50 years, says Karin North, assistant director of public works. Full Story: Palo Alto Online (Calif.)

More use of local water a Southern Calif. necessity

Southern California depends on three massive aqueducts for water but needs essentially a fourth to meet climate change challenges, says Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District. An array of projects using local water supplies is needed to provide the volume of water equivalent to another aqueduct to adjust for water cycles disrupted by climate change, Hagekhalil says. Full Story: Los Angeles Times (tiered subscription model)


Mark Smith


California Builders Alliance