Delaware Seeks Funds for Infrastructure, Transportation Projects

Like its larger Northeast neighbors Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Delaware is also in need of vital infrastructure and transportation improvements and Governor John Carney addressed those issues in his proposed budget for 2020. Carney’s plan for the next fiscal year includes a Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund that has $10 million allocated “to improve public infrastructure to support job-creating economic development projects” and a Capital Transportation Plan that designates $3.2 billion through 2025 to “modernize Delaware’s transportation system.”

Delaware took a step toward getting some of that needed construction funded last month when Carney and NJ governor Phil Murphy announced new toll rates at the Delaware Memorial Bridge (DMB) that will fund safety and infrastructure projects by the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA). With the additional revenue, the DRBA now has the resources to fund capital projects planned at Delaware Memorial Bridge including the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Bridge Paint Removal and Recoating ($48.2 million); Suspension Rope Replacement ($24.5 million); Bridge Steelwork Repairs ($40.5 million); Pin and Link Rehabilitation on Both Structures of DMB ($19.7 million); Ship Collision Protection System ($45.2 million); Bridge Deck Repair ($21.5 million); Transfer Bridge Repairs at the Cape May–Lewes Ferry ($4.3 million); and Ferry Repowering Program ($9.5 million).

Schumer Hopes Legislation Can Jump-start Gateway Construction

This week New York Senator Chuck Schumer said he will propose legislation to push construction to start on the multi-billion dollar Gateway Tunnel and Portal Bridge Project. Speaking at an event of the Association for a Better New York, Schumer said his bill would allow New York and New Jersey to advance money to get shovel-ready construction projects started and be guaranteed reimbursement from the federal government when the U.S. Department of Transportation gives its final approval.

Schumer said “if DOT continues to withhold the new starts grants from Portal and the ROD [record of decision] for the Hudson tunnels” he and fellow members of Congress from New York and New Jersey would push this legislation and attach it to an appropriations bill or some other “must-pass legislation,” according to The Bond Buyer.

Right now, Schumer said, even if the states had the money to fund the projects ready to begin the $12.7 billion plan to upgrade the rail tunnel under the Hudson River, the local government won’t spend that money for fear of not getting back what they would be owed from the federal government.

Acknowledging that this legislation is not the “magic solution” to solving the problems plaguing the Gateway Project overnight, Schumer said “the time for waiting is over.”

Floor Plan Altered for Penn Medicine Pavilion

Anticipation is building for the Pavilion at Penn Medicine, which will be an innovative building on the cutting edge of hospital construction and design when it opens in 2021. Exactly what it will look like inside, however, is still something of a work-in-progress. While garage construction is underway at the site of the $1.5 billion project, the floor plan design for the patient room layout was recently altered, according to the university’s newspaper.

Part of the innovation already planned was to have rooms that converted from intensive care to a standard room or even from an operating room to recovery to discharge. Each room will also have its own private bathroom. Technology will be worked into the construction and design of the largest capital project in the university’s history and the city of Philadelphia’s most sophisticated and ambitious healthcare building.

The new design will allow for “quicker room conversion, more greeting space for visitors, and patients will be able to change room conditions with the new technology.”

While, the number of rooms will remain at approximately the same 700 total, the design’s previous floor plan included two 32-bed units on a patient floor, separated by a central public elevator and waiting space, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. The change in design will divide the beds into three units. Each unit now will contain 24 beds and will be separated by two elevator cores that serve as midpoints between each section. All of the rooms will be identically oriented with beds and bathrooms on the same side to make conversion easier.

The 1.25 million square-foot building’s eco-friendly construction includes not only the pursuit of LEED certification but plans for the re-use of water, use of 100 percent outside air and plenty of park-like, outdoor green space throughout the Pavilion building for patients, visitors and staff.

NYU Creates Institute of Design and Construction (IDC) Innovations Hub

A new partnership hopes to combine academic research with real-world industry knowledge to better engineering design and construction in the future.

New York University Tandon School of Engineering recently announced the creation of the Institute of Design and Construction (IDC) Innovations Hub. The “industry supported and membership-based center will promote innovation in construction, engineering design, and management” with a commitment to maximize safety, efficiency and sustainability within the construction sector, according to the university’s announcement.

It will be run by Michael Horodniceanu, an internationally prominent transportation and construction executive, who is a professor within the department of urban and civil engineering. NYU hopes the center serves as a model of a partnership between industry and research and solve problems that often cause projects to have schedule delays and run over budget.

Some of the center’s stated goals include:

  • Help industry executives devise creative solutions to project design and construction issues.
  • Provide access to consultancy services from experienced, independent experts.
  • Sponsor in-depth informational seminars on topics ranging from organizational issues to best practices in the selection of materials and machinery.
  • Support training programs provided by academics and industry leaders.
  • Promote networking opportunities among a wide spectrum of organizations in the construction sector.
  • Serve as a national clearinghouse for sharing information on consulting and construction opportunities.

NYC Construction Costs Are Highest in the Country But NY Building Congress CEO Says It’s Worth It

The numbers are out, and it’s no surprise—it is expensive to build in New York City. As a matter of fact, New York City has the highest construction costs in the country. And they just keep going up.

The New York Building Congress released its New York City Construction Costs 2019 Construction Outlook Update this week. Last year, the cost of construction in New York City rose 5 percent, compared to a 3 to 4 percent increase nationally. That is about the same increase as the year before and, overall, NYC remains the country’s most expensive major city to build in. The primary driving factors in construction expenses were the cost of land, materials and regulations, according to the report.

The top ranking is created by Class A office and retail building costs, which were significantly higher than any other sector. New York is actually behind Chicago in hotel construction costs, less expensive than Los Angeles for K-12 education, and ranked lower than Chicago and San Francisco for multi-family residential construction.

Despite the overall numbers, it’s worth it to work in New York City, according to Carlo A. Scissura, president and CEO of New York Building Congress.

“While the cost of construction is high, the rewards for doing business in New York have never been greater.”

PA Governor Seeks To Fund Infrastructure with Shale Tax

Like most states across the country, Pennsylvania is need of major infrastructure upgrades. This week, Governor Tom Wolf announced his budget, which included a plan to restore and upgrade infrastructure across the state.

His budget included $4.5 billion for “impact projects” throughout Pennsylvania, including high-speed transportation and internet, over the next four years, but the cost would be covered by a proposed severance tax on natural gas drillers and not everyone supports that proposal.

This shale tax is something Wolf has tried in the past, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, which says the state’s Republicans immediately opposed the Democratic governor’s plan and said it would adversely impact the drilling industry in the state.

Pennsylvania currently imposes an impact fee on shale gas wells but does not tax the amount extracted.  The fight over the tax could delay the budget from passing and the money from getting to the infrastructure projects where it is needed. 

Adventure Crossing Hopes To Be NJ’s Destination for Indoor Sports And More

Never mind the American Dream. New Jersey’s game-changing construction project may just be happening in Ocean County, far down the NJ Turnpike from Exit 16W’s infamous Meadowlands development.

Cardinale Enterprises wants to turn Jackson, NJ, into more than Six Flags and a stop for some outlet shopping on the way home. Instead the destination will be Adventure Crossing—an indoor sports and entertainment facility with easy access to the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, adjacent to Six Flags and a quick trip to the Shore’s beaches. It will be the go-to place for youth sports tournaments and training camps, as well as business conferences and an overnight stay and extra activities for the rollercoaster crowd after a day at Great Adventure.

The amended preliminary and final site plan was approved by Jackson Township Zoning Board on January 30. Construction began  in July when they broke ground and started working on approximately $9 million of sewer and water mains, road work and land grading. The centerpiece of the facility is a 117,000-square-foot inflatable dome that is 89 feet tall and will include multiple, multi-use turf fields, five basketball and volleyball courts, an area for laser tag and an arcade, rock climbing walls, and a 12,000 square foot mezzanine for training classes as well as overlooking the courts and fields. Work on the dome has begun as part of Phase I of the construction, which will include a 10,000 square foot banquet hall and two hotels—a 140-room Hilton Garden and a 134-room Spring Hill Suites.

While the dome and the two hotels expect to be opened in late 2020, the entire vision of Cardinale founder and president Vito Cardinale for the $500 million project is expected to take about 10 years to be fully completed.  The plans  include a 100,000 square foot gymnastics facility, four to six hockey rinks, a retail complex, a golf driving range, an outdoor cricket stadium, a brain research center, and possibly a living facility for people with special needs. The original site was 150 acres but since the summer, Cardinale has acquired enough property to double the size to 300 acres.

 The New Jersey Sierra Club expressed environmental concerns about loss of habitat by building on the Pinelands property. Having struck a deal with Six Flags to protect part of that Ocean County location from clearing more land, they worry now that this development will negate what they gained in that negotiation, but Cardinale Enterprises said recently it will leave half of the land on its site “green.”

Registration Open for LEED v4.1; USGBC Seeks Volunteers

The Green Building Council’s (USGBC) newest version of the LEED green building program, LEED v4.1, is open for registration for both new construction projects, as well as interior spaces.

The goal of the new version is “to make the rating system more accessible to more projects based on lessons learned from LEED v4 project teams,” according to the USGBC. This newest beta version updates performance thresholds and referenced standards. The changes also advocate for improved performance throughout the life of buildings, reward leaders based on performance and incorporate performance reporting so that building owners can track progress toward environmental, social and governance goals.

The USGBC is also currently looking for volunteers for its LEED for Cities and Communities working group. The organization is looking for experts with technical knowledge across the rating system to serve on the inaugural LEED for Cities and Communities Working Group to advise on global, city-scale and urban sustainability issues across the organization’s programs, policies and products and support development, deployment and evolution of the LEED for Cities and Communities standard and program.

Murphy Focuses on Infrastructure; NJDOT, NJTA Advance More Than $1B in Contracts for 2019

Construction will play a big part in New Jersey governor Phil Murphy’s plans for the future. The governor is focused on fixing the state’s crumbling infrastructure, among other core issues. In this week’s state of the state address, he spoke repeatedly about investing in _infrastructure as a way to bring jobs to the state now and in the future.

The state had already put money behind those priorities. In December, the New Jersey Department of Transportation and New Jersey Turnpike Authority announced it was advancing more than $1.1 billion in construction contracts for 2019.

NJDOT will issue over $500 million in construction contracts between now and March 2019 and the NJTA will issue more than $600 million, adding over $400 million in new projects currently under design, according to the press release.

Murphy isn’t only focused on roads and rails. At one point during his speech, he specifically called out the water infrastructure issues:

“Let us use this year to also turn our attention to our aging water infrastructure. More than 1.5 million residents – north, central, and south, rural and urban – are currently serviced by water with elevated lead levels. We must leverage every opportunity to build a modern water infrastructure network that ensures the delivery of clean water to every child, and every family. We have inherited water infrastructure that is, in some places, a century old, if not older. … Outdated infrastructure is a national problem, and it requires a federal solution. I will continue working with our Congressional delegation to press the federal government for greater support and assistance — whether it pertains to clean water, or getting the Gateway Tunnel built,” he said.

Government Shutdown Stalls Infrastructure Projects

The government shutdown is impacting transportation and road construction projects across the country, but exactly how much depends on the state, according to a story in The Washington Post.

Every state is feeling the impact, but not all are being hit the same. The percentage of federal funding states receive varies from one jurisdiction to the next and not every state is in the same funding situation. Depending on the climate, for instance, while some states would be taking bids for spring projects, others would be in mid-construction on projects.
The more this goes on without a resolution, the more of a problem it will be for contractors and the construction workforce, not to mention the nation’s infrastructure.
“If this continues to drag on it will have real impacts, not only on a state’s ability to build new projects but also on their ability to operate the system that they currently have,” said Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials told the Post. “Eventually it’s going to have an impact on operations and maintenance.”
Read the full story for more of a breakdown on the situation’s impact on the industry.