Category Archives: New Jersey

Report: Construction Slows on Much Needed Bridge Repairs Across U.S.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) released its 2019 Bridge Report, and it is a good news/bad news (mostly the latter).

While there are fewer structurally deficient bridges than the year before, construction to fix them has slowed to the point where it would take 80 years to make the needed significant repairs, according to the report. That is not a good trend when the more than 47,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country are in need of “urgent” repairs.

Based on data from 2018, the “highlights” of the findings include:

  • Four out of 10 bridges need to be replaced or repaired
  • 47,052 of America’s 616,087 bridges are rated “structurally deficient” and need urgent repairs
  • The pace of repair in 2018 slowed compared to previous years—with only a 1 percent net reduction of deficient structures.
  • Americans cross these deficient bridges 178 million times a day.
  • Average age of a structurally deficient bridge is 62 years, compared to 40 years for non-deficient bridges.
  • 235,020 (38 percent) of U.S. bridges have identified repair needs.
  • 18,842 (1 in 3) Interstate highway bridges have identified repair needs

The report breaks down the crumbling infrastructure by state.

Rhode Island ranked first on the list by the percentage of deficient bridges with more than 23 percent of its 780 bridges found to be structurally deficient. Pennsylvania was fifth on the list with 3,770 of its 22,737 bridges listed as deficient, which is more than 16 percent. New York was 13th (1,757 out of 17,521/10 percent). New Jersey was 23 (544 out of 6,746, 8.1 percent).

New Jersey Paving the Way with Funding for Infrastructure Projects

New Jersey has spread the wealth in April with parts of Northern and Southern NJ receiving state funding to move forward with infrastructure projects.

Hoboken received more than $900,000 for various transportation projects through the Municipal Aid Program, the city announced last week. The money will be used for road repaving, the implementation of complete streets, and pedestrian safety upgrades related to Hoboken’s “Vision Zero” program, according to a press release.

“Upgrading our transportation infrastructure, especially our road repaving and pedestrian safety initiatives, are major priorities for my administration,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in the announcement. “This funding will help fund our proactive road repaving schedule, with over 100 blocks planned to be repaved in the city this year.  I thank Governor Murphy and the State DOT for this generous award.”

In other NJ infrastructure and transit-related project funding news, Murphy announced the Fiscal Year 2019 Safe Streets to Transit Program (SSTT) grants, which were awarded to five municipal projects through the Transit Village grant program. The recipient municipalities are:

  • Berkeley Heights, Union County: $410,000
  • Delran, Burlington County: $250,000
  • Margate, Atlantic County: $150,000
  • Red Bank, Monmouth County: $100,000
  • Middle Township, Cape May County: $90,000

The $1 million in funding will go toward projects that focus on pedestrian safety to and from transit facilities, such as sidewalks, and projects that create “safe and convenient ways to cross streets and comfortable and attractive environments” near NJ Transit stations.

Northeast Projects At Risk of Delay, Defunding To Pay for Border Wall

There are many government construction projects in the Northeast that could be delayed and millions of dollars in funds may be diverted to pay for President Trump’s Border Wall. The  Department of Defense list of military projects that could potentially be impacted was released this week by a senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In New Jersey, a $41 million construction project at Picatinny Arsenal is at risk of being delayed, but the four projects—including work on electrical systems and mechanical systems, as well as exterior renovations and  cleaning and repairing lift stations and catch basins—totaling more than $100 million for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst would go ahead as planned because those contracts are scheduled to be awarded in March, April, May and September, and the Defense Department said it would not divert funding from projects scheduled to begin before Oct. 1, according to NJ.com.

In New York, The U.S. Military Academy in West Point could lose up to $160 million designated for a new engineering center and parking centerArmy Times reported.

Four projects in Pennsylvania are at risk, including a $71 million submarine propeller manufacturing facility in Philadelphia. In Delaware, the $39 million aircraft maintenance building at Dover Air Force could be delayed, according to Delaware Business Now.

As of now, no project would be cancelled to fund the Border Wall, the Pentagon said. But for that to hold true, Congress must approve the request to fully replenish the funds, according to the Army Times.

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.”

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.

Economy Brings More Construction Work, Industry Struggles to Find Workers

A strong economy is giving the construction industry so much work it’s having trouble finding enough workers. According to an article on CNBC.com, a boost in spending from consumers and businesses who have more cash on hand for expansions and improvements is exacerbating the industry’s growing inability to fill jobs.

 

In New York City, the coming of Amazon is pushing the industry even harder to fill the existing vacancies, says Bisnow.com. But the Amazon to Long Island City issue is not an isolated case created by the corporate giant.

The Associated General Contractors of America 2018 Workforce Survey revealed that 79 percent of New York firms reported having difficulty finding hourly workers. As part of its recommendations to reduce the labor shortage the AGC of NY suggested that educational reform is part of the process. That includes a proposal to expand federal work-study programs and apprenticeship opportunities, as well as better educate students about employment outcomes, according to a story in the Albany Times Union.

The story continued: The report noted immigration reform as a key issue. With millions of undocumented, able-bodied immigrants who can’t legally work, the AGC says a visa program would alleviate the labor shortage and recommended expanding seasonal worker visas, as well as market-based visas to mitigate the current and future worker shortages.

Phelps Construction Group Named GC of the Year by NJ Subcontractors Association

Congratulations to CIS client Phelps Construction Group. The Boonton-based company was named General Contractor of the Year by the New Jersey Subcontractors Association.

“Could not be prouder of our team,” Phelps Construction Group president Douglas Phelps wrote on LinkedIn after celebrating the award at a dinner at The Brownstone in Paterson, NJ.

It has been a big year for the company, which has gotten the most attention for its Statue of Liberty Museum project. The 26,000-square-foot museum, which is scheduled to open in May, is being built with its first floor about the 500-year flood level and to be able to withstand hurricane-force winds. It will also house the original Statue of Liberty torch. Phelps Construction Group is moving from its current location in the Statue’s base to the new museum today November 15. The museum website plans to show the torch journey across Liberty Island on top of a remote-controlled transporter.

But the company has been busy beyond Liberty Island, too. It’s 74,000-square-foot NYSCO warehouse in Hawthorne, NY, won an Award of Merit from the Metal Building Contractors & Erectors Association.

They have been busy with the 132,000 square foot Subaru Distribution Center in Orangeburg, NY, a project that will also include part of the current 150,000-square-foot warehouse being converted into a training center. It aims to complete this project in the first quarter of 2019.

There was also Hanover Crossroads in Cedar Knolls, NJ, and the recently opened the 4,500-square-foot community home, The Smile of Hopatcong in Hopatcong, NJ. And now the company will be working on a new “marquee premium club” at the Prudential Center in Newark. “The Lofts” will be a 14,560-square-foot space with vaulted 30-foot ceilings.

TAP Grants Offer Bike and Pedestrian Projects Throughout NJ

New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has received a record $23 million in federal funding in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grants for local and regional bicycle and pedestrian projects.

The complete list of projects spans the entire state. The largest grant—nearly $8.5 million–went to the Delaware River Heritage Trail for a Route 130 Bypass from Fieldsboro to Florence in Burlington County.

There were 18 projects totaling $18.6 million in TAP grants, and 14 Safe Routes to School grants of $2.3 million. An additional $2.2 million was authorized for Safe Routes to School work administered by Transportation Management Associations (TMAs).

According to the state press release, the TAP program funds a variety of projects including:

  • The design and construction of on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation
  • Community improvement activities, such as streetscaping and corridor landscaping
  • Construction of scenic turnouts, overlooks and viewing areas

New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition is particularly happy with this TAP funding. According to a blog post by NJBWC executive director Cyndi Steiner, the organization’s advocacy efforts saved the state $12 million and the new routes will make pedestrians safer. Read more of what Steiner had to say and David Hutter’s story on NJBiz.com about the funding, projects and grant solicitations.

 

P3’s Bring Opportunity and Uncertainty

When Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill expanding the opportunities for Private-Public Partnerships (PPP or P3) projects, many expressed great hope that this opportunity—with the private companies assuming the financial risk and long-term maintenance of the project—can be the answer to the state’s infrastructure crisis, as well as a boon for construction jobs.

“We’ve seen many municipalities in New Jersey struggle to repair roads and bridges, build new borough facilities and redevelop their communities,” said Jack Kocsis, CEO of Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey. “This new law now gives them the means to cost-effectively finance much-needed construction projects.”

With the new legislation, a state or local government agency, as well as school districts, can contract with a private company for a project.

“It could be a local library, highway construction, transit-related, the whole raft of infrastructure,” Murphy said when he signed the bill at The College of New Jersey’s Campus Town development, a project built collaboratively with private-sector partners.

Previously New Jersey only allowed P3s with public colleges and universities.

“Democrats and Republicans alike recognize the tremendous benefits that can arise when public officials and private sector partners work together,” Murphy said. “By doing so, we give state, county, and local officials the much-needed flexibility they need to improve their communities while creating good-paying new jobs – in most cases good, union jobs – while leveraging private capital to invest in public infrastructure.”

At its best, a P3 is a win for all, saving municipalities money, getting vitally needed infrastructure upgrades or important community projects done sooner and creating jobs in the construction industry. But it doesn’t always go so smoothly. Not all projects are eligible for P3s and the contracts are complicated. The results have not always been as hoped either.

At least 30 other states had legislation for use of P3s in widespread projects, but many have run into trouble. In Texas, the private company that operated a toll road went bankrupt forcing the state to step in and assist in financing. In Chicago, a deal required taxpayers to reimburse the private company when parking meters didn’t produce expected revenues.

There have also been concerns about a lack of oversight with everything from potential environmental issues to transparency to ensure fair competition in bidding–would large companies, perhaps from out-of-state come in and do all the work, or could the high risk taken on by the private companies keep some from bidding at all?  Another big concern was labor protections. Most of these issues, however, were addressed during the legislative process and are reflected in the law.

“During the legislative hearings, UTCA (Utility and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey) was successful in obtaining important amendments to protect the interests of our industry. The Association has been working with our partners for several years on P3 legislation and thanks to that successful effort, New Jersey has an important new tool for financing infrastructure,” UTCA said in a statement following the bill signing in August.

Kocsis agreed that the key protections are in place.

“In addition, the new law contains strong, time-tested contractor and labor protections ACCNJ has promoted for decades,” he said. “Equally important, this P3 legislation will not replace traditional project delivery, but rather supplement existing procurement and project financing methods.”

It will take time, various projects-and likely some failures-to know how to use P3s most effectively and to the benefit of the public and all parties involved and to decide if the optimism was warranted and this type of partnership is, in fact, the best long-term answer.

By Chris Colabella & Kara Yorio