Tag Archive for 'highways'

Products at Work: GOMACO GT-3600 

Products at Work: GOMACO GT-3600

 

GOMACO Corporation manufactures curb and gutter machines, concrete slipform pavers, placer/spreaders, trimmer/placers, cylinder finishers, canal machinery and accessories ideal for any concrete construction project.

GOMACO Snapshot

(Updated 06-26-2017)

 

This GOMACO GT-3600 is slipforming concrete curb and gutter in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Photos By Brian Graff, GOMACO Corporation

 

ABC Reports: Construction Input Prices Flat, but Crude Petroleum Prices Plummet in May

Construction input prices remained unchanged in May, ending five consecutive months of price expansion, according to analysis of  Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today by Associated Builders and Contractors.  expanded 3.4 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Nonresidential construction input prices also remained unchanged on a monthly basis but increased by 3.1 percent on a yearly basis. Only crude petroleum prices experienced a significant month-over-month change in May, with prices falling 19.6 percent from April’s level. Natural gas prices remain significantly higher—up 66 percent—from the same time one year ago.

“Since March 2016, construction input prices have generally been on the rise,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “Many commodity prices established their cyclical nadir during last year’s first quarter, with prices then surging higher for a time. There were a number of factors at work, including stronger growth in parts of Europe and Asia and coordinated efforts by producers to curtail production and support higher prices.

“These factors are no longer strong enough to drive commodity and construction input prices higher,” said Basu. “The U.S. economy in particular does not appear positioned for the rate of growth many had anticipated at the beginning of the year. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently revised America’s growth outlook downward from 2.4 percent to 2.1 percent for the current year. Stronger U.S. economic growth has been expected to be a major driver of overall global economic improvement.

“The role of technology and previous investments in productive capacities is just as important,” said Basu. “As shale and other producers become more efficient, the price for certain items will tend to fall absent a countervailing increase in demand. With global economic growth remaining below par, commodity prices are no longer rising. This strongly implies that the trend of rising construction materials prices that was so apparent in 2016 will be less so during the current year.”

Tom Ewing’s Environmental Update

 FAA’s regulatory reform advisory committee submitted initial recommendations to agency staff.  Seems like there ought to be some good ideas in the mix – after all, the draft is 154 pages containing over 300 individual suggestions to repeal, replace or modify regulatory language.  This is a rough draft listing all of the ideas from committee members.  Next steps: further review and working towards consensus on changes FAA can make to provide near-term regulatory relief consistent with the goals in the President’s Executive Order seeking a long term strategy promoting safe and efficient transportation systems.
*  Nothing to see here, folks – keep moving… Some concerns/comments sent from citizen John Doe re DOT’s regulatory reforms.  Mr. Doe identifies himself as a highway engineer, working for a consulting company, with 20 years experience: ** Multiple standards result in far too many personal preferences and design changes and sometime higher costs. ** Property owners with political connections get preferential treatment, e.g., one state recently spent $80 million on an interchange that could have cost $50 million but a Big Guy knew the governor and he wanted a “non standard” interchange to remain near his business. ** State pension issues are leading experienced people to bail out; inexperienced staff left behind cause design and construction problems.

*  The National Coal Council’s (NCC) June Newsletter cites a report from a group called GCube Underwriting, Ltd, a “renewable energy underwriter,” based in London.  GCube cautions that “resource risk” – a lack of wind or low wind speeds – will be the most pressing concern for the wind energy sector “for a number of years.” Low wind speeds are reportedly hurting the performance of wind farms in numerous markets. In fact, GCube writes that resource risk has now surpassed mechanical and electrical breakdowns as the top potential cause of financial loss.  I sent an email to GCube asking for their full report… No reply yet.

Tom Ewing
“reply” or 
513-379-5526 voice/text

ASCE Reports America’s Infrastructure as D+

President Trump Announces “Massive Permit Reform” Push

Capping off his Administration’s ‘Infrastructure Week,’ President Trump held an event this morning on permitting reform at the U.S. Department of Transportation. President Trump, joined by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, met with heads of state departments of transportation and then addressed a group of transportation officials and stakeholders. President Trump reiterated his commitment to fixing the nation’s infrastructure and named the existing infrastructure project approval process as a major impediment to that goal, saying “one of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately-needed infrastructure…is the painfully slow, costly and time-consuming process for getting permits and approvals to build.”

President Trump is not alone in this view. Secretary Chao has repeatedly said over the last several months that “money is not the problem” when it comes to improving the nation’s infrastructure and instead cutting red tape to speed up the approvals process is the most important thing for restoring the nation’s infrastructure systems. Last month the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the topic, where Chairman John Barrasso (R-MT) called for simplifying the government review process and making it more flexible to meet the different natures of rural and urban states. However, Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) pushed back on the Secreatary Chao’s comments, declaring lack of funding the biggest impediment to infrastructure improvements and calling for the full implementation of changes to permitting laws passed in recent legislation before Congress takes further action.

Almost everyone agrees the federal infrastructure approval process is a long way from perfect, but there are strongly contrasting ideas about how to improve it. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider the environmental effects of an action and to involve the public in their decision-making process. The law is a frequent target of criticism from some sectors because it can add years to a project.

Congress has tried to fix the pain points in several recent pieces of legislation. The FAST Act included new procedural requirements aimed at ensuring early collaboration and efficient environmental reviews for complex infrastructure projects including: the use of a single NEPA document as much as possible with one agency serving as lead and ensuring the review meets the needs of the other agencies; requiring a schedule to be a part of a project coordination plan; and creating a publicly accessible dashboard to publish the status of NEPA and permitting for all projects requiring an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment. MAP-21 and the Water Resources Development Act also included permitting reforms, but these reforms have not been fully implemented yet.

A Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General report from March found that the streamlining provisions in the FAST Act have possibly delayed the improvements expected from the streamlining measures in MAP-21. This should give Congress pause as they contemplate more permitting reform, as the already approved reforms have not had the opportunity to be tested yet.

ASCE has called for mandating concurrent reviews by agencies; a single administrative permitting agency to shorten and improve the approval process and improve inter-agency collaboration; and time limits for decisions on infrastructure projects. To some extent these reforms have all been included in recent legislation (particularly the FAST Act), but their effect is not yet clear.

Today President Trump announced the creation of a new council to help project managers navigate the permitting process including the creation of a new online dashboard. He also announced the creation of a new office within the White House Council of Environmental Quality “to root out inefficiency, clarify lines of authority, and streamline federal, state and local procedures so that communities can modernize their aging infrastructure without fear of outdated federal rules getting in the way.”

While it is obviously too early to know the effect of the Administration’s new efforts to streamline the permitting process, it’s assertion that regulations, not funding, are the real problem in infrastructure ignores the true infrastructure challenges we face. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report questioned the degree to which the NEPA compliance process is a significant source of delay, noting “causes of delay that have been identified are more often tied to local/state and project-specific factors, primarily local/state agency priorities, project funding levels, local opposition to a project, project complexity, or late changes in project scope.” A 2016 report prepared for the U.S. Treasury on proposed major infrastructure projects stated, “A review of the 40 transportation and water infrastructure projects…suggests that they face four major challenges to completion: (a) limited public resources, (b) significantly increased capital costs, (c) extended program and project review and permitting processes, and (d) lack of consensus among multiple public and private sector entities. A lack of public funding is by far the most common factor hindering the completion of transportation and water infrastructure projects.”

ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card graded the nation’s infrastructure a D+ and estimates that $4.59 trillion in infrastructure investment will be necessary from federal, state, local, and private sources between 2016 and 2025 to reach a state of good repair and earn a grade of B. However, only just $2.5 trillion is likely to be invested, leaving a $2.0 trillion funding gap. The investment gap led ASCE to make the first key solution of the Report Card increased investment; no amount of streamlining and expediting alone will close the infrastructure investment gap and solve our infrastructure challenges. The Report Card also recommends streamlining the permitting and approval process, but the goals of such changes should to be provide greater clarity to regulatory requirements, bring priority projects to reality more quickly, and secure cost savings. Attempts to shorten the permitting and approval process should not come at the expense of public health, public safety, and the environment.

While we should continue to strive for an efficient and effective federal approval process, addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs requires investing real money in our communities.

http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/tag/infrastructure/

A First for the Aloha State