Tag Archives: construction

Pennsylvania Adds Funds for Construction Projects; Governor Pushes for Infrastructure Funding Program

January brings many state-of-the-state addresses by governors, who announce their priorities and budget plans for the coming year. In Pennsylvania, however, many counties didn’t have to wait for 2020’s speech to know some money was coming their way for infrastructure and construction needs. On December 30, Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of more than $5 million in funding through the Keystone Communities program for 42 revitalization projects that include construction and business development.

The following funds and projects were included in the governor’s announcement:

Bucks County

  • Quakertown: $50,000 façade grant for a façade improvement program in the designated Keystone Main Street area of Quakertown Borough, benefiting at least ten storefronts.
  • Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County: $50,000 façade grant for a façade improvement program in downtown Bristol, benefiting at least ten storefronts.

Delaware County

  • Lansdowne Economic Development Corp.: $50,000 to assist in the construction of the Lansdowne Maker Space, a 2,500-square-foot tech-based maker space.

Philadelphia County

  • City of Philadelphia: $250,000 for renovations to the Happy Hollow playground at the Happy Hollow Recreation Center in Germantown, to address the failing conditions of the playground and to restructure its layout, install new site furnishings and lighting, replace equipment, purchase and install safety surface material and new outdoor fitness equipment.

Wolf is also hoping his state legislature backs his Restore Pennsylvania multibillion-dollar capital plan that he proposed last year to help with the state’s infrastructure issues. Funding the plan requires a severance tax on natural gas and has met with resistance. Wolf recently tweeted that if the plan gets approved, some of that money can be used to help with the infrastructure issues in Philadelphia schools—including remediating contaminants such as asbestos.

Four Philadelphia schools had to close this school year because of asbestos. The superintendent recently outlined an Environmental Safety Improvement Plan, which will use $12 million in funds from its budget to speed up asbestos abatement in the impacted schools.

Employment and Spending Data Analyses Offers Cause for Celebration—and Concern

In the last two weeks, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) released two reports, which combine to show a mixed picture of construction industry employment and spending.

Last week, AGC released an analysis of federal employment data from October 2018 to October 2019 that showed construction employment increased in 65 percent of U.S. metro areas. Despite the overall positive numbers nationwide, the Northeast took a hit. New York City had the largest number of job losses over that time period, losing 6,200, or four percent, of its construction jobs, according to the report. (Fairbanks, AK, had the biggest decrease by percentage, dropping 13 percent which was a loss of 400 jobs.)

The report also showed hourly craftworker positions remain difficult to fill despite the overall job gains. In response to that, the AGC officials “urged the Trump administration and Congress to make it easier to bring in workers for specific jobs that cannot be filled domestically and to strengthen career and technical education opportunities for students seeking alternatives to college.”

second analysis released this week showed construction spending declined .8 percent in October from September. The $1.291 trillion spent in October 2019 remained better than spending in October 2018 by 1.1 percent but, this year, decreases in private nonresidential, multifamily and public projects were too much to override an increase in construction of single-family homes, according to AGC’s analysis of federal spending data. The association blamed trade conflicts for the negative impact.

“Trade friction drags down U.S. economic growth,” AGC’s chief economist Ken Simonson said in a statement, adding, “Businesses that have been hurt by existing tariffs and retaliatory actions by U.S. trading partners or firms facing uncertainty over future trade policy are likely to hold off on construction projects.”

Big Plans Would Transform Delaware School District and Create Years of Construction  

Appoquinimink School District in Middletown, DE, has a big vision for its future. With an expected rise in student population, the district just opened a new elementary school in the district for this school year and has plans for five new schools and an early childhood center over the next five years.

Included in that plan are a new middle school and high school that are already in progress and scheduled to open in 2020. The other three schools and the early learning center need the December 17 referendum to pass. A new elementary school–for which they identified a new 25-acre site this week–and a new early childhood center both are planned to open in 2022.

There is another new high school and new middle school with opening dates in 2025 on the master plan.

Leading into the referendum vote, the district has an RFQ for Construction Management Services, which would entail review of design, value engineering, developing a construction schedule for a project that includes HVAC improvements, a new elementary school, a new kindergarten center, roof replacement and turf field renovations at one high school, a middle school stadium and multiple fields.

It is also seeking RFQs for Architecture and Engineering Services and plans to make multiple awards.

Both bid requests have Nov. 14 deadlines.

NJSDA in Crisis Again; School Projects Could Be At Risk

The New Jersey School Development Authority (NJSDA) is in crisis, again. The agency in charge of funding and managing new construction, modernization and renovation in 31 of the state’s most impoverished school districts is spiraling after yet another scandal. There are now calls to dissolve the agency that was created after its predecessor was disbanded when it failed to meet its mission to use taxpayer dollars to give the most at-risk kids of this state an adequate learning environment.

This week the organization’s CEO Lizette Delgado-Polanco was forced to resign after an investigation showed she lied about her education and hired unqualified people with personal connections to her after firing others on staff. Amid these accusations of unfair hiring practices and lying about qualifications, the budget is dwindling and no one can say for sure what is going to happen to the districts and 25 active Capital Program projects it lists on its website.

According to NJ.com, the agency once had a budget of $12 billion and it is now down to $60 million, which is not enough for new construction—it is only enough for emergency repairs at existing schools. And the NJSDA is already operating with a debt that costs state taxpayers $1 billion a year, according to The Record. It is also under multiple internal investigations and an audit.

Lost again in all of this is the construction projects that now people in the state admit there are real questions about how projects can go forward, but board chairman Rob Nixon told The Record the authority would continue its work.

“I’ve got a responsibility to now work with the board to get a CEO in there that’s going to be focused on taking this program into its next stage,” he said. “We really haven’t missed a beat. But I think that now that we’re hopefully no longer going to be distracted, we can look ahead to finishing up the projects we have and look into re-authorization and learning from this like we’ve done in the past.”

The Capital Program active projects are:

Camden High School, Camden

George Washington Carver Elementary School, East Orange
New ES at Halloran PS 22 Site, Elizabeth – substantially complete and occupied.
James Madison Elementary School, Garfield – substantially complete and occupied.
Gloucester City Middle School, Gloucester City – substantially complete and occupied.
New Elementary School, Harrison
Thomas G. Connors Elementary School, Hoboken – not yet out to bid.
Madison Avenue Elementary School, Irvington
Patricia M. Noonan Elementary School, Jersey City – substantially complete and occupied.
Port Monmouth Road School, Keansburg
Senior High School, Millville
Paul Robeson Community Theme School for the Arts, New Brunswick
South Street Elementary School, Newark
Cleveland Street Elementary School, Orange
Orange High School, Orange
Dayton Avenue Elementary School Campus, Passaic City – design phase ongoing.
New Elementary School at Leonard Place, Passaic City
Union Avenue Middle School, Paterson
Alexander Denbo Elementary School, Pemberton
Seaman Avenue Elementary School, Perth Amboy
High School, Perth Amboy
Woodland Elementary School, Plainfield
Trenton Central High School, Trenton
Lincoln Avenue Middle School, Vineland – substantially complete and occupied.
Harry L. Bain Elementary School, West New York – substantially complete and occupied.

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.”

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.”

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.

Women Still Outnumbered, But Making Bigger Strides in Construction Industry

Like so many other industries, construction continues its efforts for greater gender and racial representation in its workforce.

Construction has long been, and remains, a male-dominated industry. Nationally, women make up less than 10 percent of the workforce. But there has been a recent 15 percent growth of women in the industry, as more and more companies are recruiting women and promoting them to senior roles, according to a report on industry trends in Fora Financial.

Women in construction are even getting documentary film attention. A feature-length documentary is in post-production. Hard Hatted Women follows five female construction workers through their daily life on and off the job where they break down barriers in the blue collar world, according to the filmmakers, who hope to secure enough funding to get screenings on the film festival tour in 2019.

The project has received support from companies like Turner, Dragados USA, SMACNA and Structure Tone, according to a story in enr.com, which adds that if the push of recruiting attention alone isn’t enough to attract more women to the industry, maybe the industry’s growth and opportunity will be.