Tag Archive for 'infrastructure'

All Jammed Up

BY: HANNAH HAMILTONUSGS

HHAMILTON@USGSGOV, ETHAN ALPERN EALPERN@USGS.GOV

lookingDSfromBridgeIce Jams in Powder River at Arvada, WY, downstream of the bridge.

April showers may bring May flowers, but spring can also bring ice jams to the thawing rivers and streams across the northern United States.

An ice jam or ice dam, is a buildup of broken ice in the river system. It can be a problem that causes the water to back up over the top of highway bridges, roads, or into cities. At times, they can cause flooding. Ice jams can be large–backing up water for miles, or small and only back up water in a small area locally.

An ice jam can damage bridges with the amount of water pushing on the jam from behind; it can force the ice to push the bridge – moving it slightly.

USGS monitors ice jams across the north using cameras as well as by collecting ice thickness information when technicians do regular streamgage work or when measuring discharge on the rivers in the spring.

For example, each year, the Maine Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Coast Guard asks the USGS to measure the ice thickness and provide an ice jam flood potential on the Kennebec River. The U.S. Coast Guard has used their ice breakers to clear the ice in the lower Kennebec River in years when the ice jam flood potential was high.

Skunk_River_at_Augusta_-_large_fileIce breakup on the Skunk River

Greg Stewart, data section chief for the USGS New England Water Science Center, said its part of the agency’s job to monitor river flows throughout the state of Maine and to measure the stream flow underneath the ice.

USGS technicians take ice cores to measure ice thickness at various places on the rivers. In order to make an ice measurement, it’s necessary to drill between 25-30 holes in the ice. Then, thickness is recorded at just several of the holes to help document the measurement conditions.

That information allows the USGS to assess the risk of ice jams, flooding or other problems when the ice begins to melt, Stewart said. According to Stewart, when ice jam flooding starts to happen, there is very little time and very little warning.

Thickness of the ice and how fast a melt occurs affects the ice jam flooding potential. For example while the weather is cold, and the water is freezing you have ice accumulation. When the weather changes and it starts to warm the ice begins to melt and begins to break up. A quick warmup with the ice strong and still in place can cause significant ice jam flooding.

Another sign of spring is the melting snowpack, which is the result of accumulated layers of snow with generally more at high altitudes. Snowpacks feed rivers and streams providing an aquatic life habitat, hydro power, a possible source of drinking water, but they are also a potential flood hazard.

With a quick warm up of high temperatures over a short period of time, there is an increased likelihood of flooding from snowpack melt, but when you have a gradual increase in spring temperatures with moderate temperatures during the day and slightly below freezing at night the flooding potential is decreased slowly and safely.

According to Stewart, when the snowpack starts to melt, historically in March, that’s when snowmelt driven runoff begins and the USGS looks at the flooding potential.

To learn about the water levels at a streamgage near you sign up for alerts to your email or cell phone here!

Learn More:

Episode 6: Ice jams, flooding likely in Nebraska this spring, transcript: March 4, 2010

Thompson Bridge (Red River) Image Gallery

Ice Jam on the Niobrara River

Ice breakup at South Fork Grand River near Cash, SD

CATEGORIES: FEATURED, WATER

POSTED ON APRIL 9, 2014 AT 9:14 AM

LAST UPDATE 8:07 AM BY: HANNAH HAMILTON HHAMILTON@USGSGOV, ETHAN ALPERN EALPERN@USGS.GOV

ABC Reports: Construction Materials Prices Up 0.5 Percent in March

CEU2“Despite the increase in materials prices, this report does not signal a period of much higher inflation.” —ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.

PPI_4 11 14Construction materials prices expanded 0.5 percent in March and are up 1.1 percent from March of last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s April 11 producer price index release. Nonresidential construction materials prices are up 0.4 percent for the month and are 1 percent higher than the same time one year ago.

“Despite the increase in materials prices, this report does not signal a period of much higher inflation,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “While it is true that there were significant increases in overall monthly inflation for both the broader economy and for construction, only a handful of categories were actually associated with a meaningful uptick in prices.”

Overall, the nation’s wholesale goods prices fell 0.1 percent in March but are up 1.7 percent year over year. Crude energy materials prices fell 6.8 percent in March but are still 13.6 percent higher than one year ago, and have expanded by 34.1 percent through the first three months of 2014.

“With respect to the broader economy, much of the inflation was related to food, which likely is a result of meteorological impacts,” said Basu. “With respect to construction, only three of 11 categories actually experienced increasing prices for the month. Given modest projections for both global and national economic growth, it is unlikely that significant inflationary pressures will be experienced during the month ahead with respect to most construction materials prices.”

The following materials prices increased in March.

Nonferrous wire and cable prices gained 0.1 percent in March but are down 2.7 percent from one year ago.

Concrete products prices expanded 0.3 percent in March and are up 3.9 percent from one year ago.

Prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing, and siding expanded by 1.1 percent for the month and are up 0.1 percent from one year ago.

Eight of the 11 key construction inputs did not experience price increases for the month.

Iron and steel prices fell 1.7 percent in March but are up 1.3 percent from the same time last year.

Natural gas prices fell 10.9 percent in March but are 48.5 percent higher than one year ago.

Crude energy prices fell 6.8 percent in March but are 13.6 percent higher than one year ago.

Steel mill products prices shed 1.1 percent for the month but are 1.4 percent higher than one year ago.

Crude petroleum prices fell 6.4 percent in March but are up 3.9 percent from March 2013.

Prices for plumbing fixtures shed 0.8 percent for the month but are up 1.9 percent from the same time last year.

Fabricated structural metal product prices are down 0.2 percent for the month but have risen 0.5 percent from one year ago.

Softwood lumber prices fell 0.8 percent in March and are 2.1 percent lower than one year ago.

To view the previous PPI report, click HERE

ARTBA Launches “Transportation Investment Advocate Center” To Help Move State & Local Campaigns

image001The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) recently announced the start-up of the “Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™” (TIAC), a first-of-its kind, dynamic education program and internet-based information resource.  The program is aimed at helping private citizens, legislators, organizations and businesses successfully grow transportation infrastructure resources at the state and local levels through the legislative and ballot initiative processes.

The cornerstone of the new program is the website, www.transportationinvestment.org.  ARTBA Chairman Doug Black says the site has been structured “so those interested in making action happen do not have to ‘re-invent the wheel’ to mount successful campaigns.” The idea, he said, is “to put in one place—and promote the sharing of—current strategies, sample political and communications tools, legislative and ballot initiative language, and information on where to obtain professional campaign advice, research and help.”

image003The transportationinvestment.org site features 39 detailed case studies of recent transportation funding campaigns—both successful and unsuccessful—mounted in 28 states.  It includes the actual television, radio and print ads, polling data, and media and coalition strategies used in the campaigns.  The site features a blog, which will be updated regularly with new developments and economic-based research and messaging developed by ARTBA to help frame the political debate.  An overview of funding and financing mechanisms utilized to support state and local transportation programs is also included.

Complementing the dynamic website site, the TIAC program includes an annual workshop to be held in Washington, D.C., and ongoing webinars for transportation investment advocates featuring case studies, best practices, and the latest in political and media strategies.

The inaugural “National Workshop for State & Local Transportation Advocates™” will be held July 16 at the Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill.  The workshop will be marketed to state and local chamber of commerce executives, state legislators, state and local transportation officials, “Better Roads & Transportation” group members, industry and labor executives, and leaders of state and local chapters of national organizations with an interest in transportation development programs.

The Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ is a project of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s “Transportation Makes America Work!” (TMAW) program and funded through voluntary contributions and sponsorships. To become a sponsor or to make a contribution, contact TIAC staff directly through the website.

Established in 1902, ARTBA represents the U.S. transportation design and construction industry in the Nation’s Capital.

CONEXPO-CON/AGG & IFPE 2014 attract nearly 130,000, set new exhibit & education records

CONEXPOCONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE 2014 took center stage in Las Vegas March 4-8 with tremendous energy and serious buyers. Total registration of 129,364 soared past the last edition of the shows as they achieved the second-highest attendance in their history. The shows also set new records for exhibit space, number of exhibitors and education tickets sold.

The co-located CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE, at the Las Vegas (USA) Convention Center, delivered a global showcase of the newest product innovations and technologies for the construction, construction materials and fluid power/power transmission/motion control industries with more than 1,000 new products and services on display.

Attendees also took advantage of the shows’ strong industry education programs and the unparalleled opportunity to connect with industry peers, take the pulse of what’s happening and learn what the future holds.

“The enthusiasm and traffic on the show floor was just incredible. Exhibitors cited the high quality of attendees; they told us these were serious buyers and reported robust sales to existing as well as new customers that exceeded their expectations,” stated Megan Tanel, CONEXPO-CONAGG show director.

Quality Attendance, International Scope

The Show maintained the growing international scope of the shows with international registrations totaling more than 31,000, or an increase of nine percent from the most recent events.  The number of countries represented increased to 170 from 159 in 2011, and the number of international attendees matched the record 24 percent of total attendance set in 2011.  International attendance drew heavily from Latin America, China, Canada, and Europe.

More than 75 percent of show visitors were in managerial roles (with 36 percent of these with the top titles of president/owner and vice president/general manager/chief financial officer).

Both shows set new records for exhibit space and number of exhibitors, CONEXPO-CON/AGG with more than 2.35 million net square feet of exhibit space and more than 2,000 exhibitors, and IFPE with more than 161,000 net square feet and 400 exhibitors.

A record 41,000 education ticket sales were sold to the shows’ education programs, underscoring their relevance to helping attendees succeed in today’s business environment.

“CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE 2014 reflected the feeling of momentum building in the industry. We are industry-run shows with industry needs put first; these show numbers are a testament to the value attendees, exhibitors, and other stakeholders derive from their participation,” stated Melissa Magestro, IFPE show director.

Global Industry Gathering Place

Among the show visitors were Acting U.S Deputy Secretary of Commerce Patrick D. Gallagher, Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez and former U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, who served as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 2007 to 2011.

The shows were chosen for the prestigious U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) International Buyer Program, which helps facilitate global attendance. More than 50 official international attendee delegations were organized by DOC as well as show industry partners.

More than 95 allied associations and groups were official supporting organizations, coming from the U.S., Canada and 16 other countries worldwide.

Several national industry associations held their annual conventions or high-level board meetings at the shows; they joined hundreds of other industry and company meetings, from large events to smaller committees and other groups, all taking advantage of the shows to meet and share knowledge and learn from one another.

Education and Exhibits

The education program covered 120 sessions over 10 targeted tracks. The IFPE Technical Conference anchored IFPE 2014 education, joined by half-day “college-level courses” and a new Fluid Power Seminar series, from Hydraulics & Pneumatics magazine.

The 2014 Show featured a new Demolition & Recycling exhibit pavilion from the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) and the Technology & Construction Solutions pavilion from the Associated General Contractors of America.

IFPE featured exhibit pavilions from the Power Transmission Distributors Association (PTDA) and for sensors manufacturers and product suppliers.

Reinforcing the global scope of the shows were eight international exhibit pavilions: CONEXPO-CON/AGG with China, Ireland, Korea, Spain and United Kingdom, and IFPE with China, Italy and Taiwan.

Show safety and education/training events at the shows included:

  • NRMCA International Truck Mixer Driver Championship, from the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
  • Lift Safety Zone, from NCCCO National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators and IPAF International Powered Access Federation
  • Crane Operator Rodeo from Maximum Capacity Media

Industry recognition and networking events and programs also amplified the show experience:

  • Innovation Awards program (from Diesel Progress magazine and global powertrain specialist ZF Friedrichshafen)
  • Young Leaders event (from Construction Equipment magazine)
  • Quality of Life industry recognition campaign (from Dexter + Chaney)
  • 5K Run/Walk benefiting the non-profit Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund (from Maximum Capacity Media)

Night at the Race Track hospitality event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Meeting a Federal Highway Trust Fund Crisis: A Profile in Courage … and

ARTBAFebruary 28 is a special day in the history of the federal highway program and Highway Trust Fund that supports it.  On this day, 53 years ago, President John F. Kennedy (JFK) saw a threat to the nation’s future economic growth and security and grabbed the reins of leadership.

The year was 1961.  Americans were paying 27 cents per gallon for gasoline, including a 4 cents per gallon federal gas and diesel fuel tax to support capital investments though the federal highway program in their personal mobility and the nation’s economy and security.  The 2014 equivalents would be a 31 cents per gallon federal gas tax on a $2.11 gallon of gasoline.

“Our federal pay-as-you-go highway program is in peril,” JFK said in the first sentence of a “Special Message to the Congress on the Federal Highway Program” sent up to Capitol Hill that day.

The problem:  the user based revenue stream going into the Highway Trust Fund was not sufficient to sustain the level of authorizations necessary to keep the highway program running without going into deficit spending.  Kennedy told the Congress $900 million more dollars per year ($7.04B in 2014 dollars) was necessary.

“Our objective,” Kennedy said, “is to finance this program on a pay-as-you-go basis from… user taxes… at rates sufficient to pay the full cost of the program, without charge on general federal revenues… “The pay-as-you-go principle… requires an increase in the revenues from user taxes…”

It is clear, he said, “that a program essential to the nation, and to [the public’s] own welfare, requires that they cooperate in determining how present sources are to yield the additional revenues needed.”

Kennedy offered what he called “A New Plan to Finance the Highway Program.”  He urged Congress to sustain the federal gas tax revenue stream and increase the user fees on trucks—the federal diesel fuel excise increased from 4 cents per gallon to 7 cents; truck weight excise for vehicles over 26,000 lbs. from $1.50 per 1,000 lbs. to $5.00 per; the excises on sale of new tires from 8 cents per tire to 10 cents, the sale of tire inner tubes from 9 cents per to 10 cents, and tread rubber from 3 cents to 10 cents.

On June 29, 1961, the 87th Congress of the United States responded, approving the “Federal Aid Highway Act of 1961,” (Public Law 87-61), generally following the path outlined by the President.

The Highway Trust Fund crisis was averted.  Filling out and construction of the 41,000-mile Interstate Highway System and ongoing improvements to the 848,677 miles of state roads deemed worthy of federal investment due to their importance to the nation’s economy and security continued forward.   No American jobs were lost.

Footnote:   Despite claims to the contrary, the federal gas tax is not “broken” or “outmoded” as a mechanism to raise user revenue for the Highway Trust Fund.  The only problem with the gas tax as a revenue generator is that the rate has been frozen for 20 years and the rate has never been indexed, or adjusted, to keep pace with annual price inflation or to meet identified needs.  It is a fact that if Congress had indexed the 1961 federal gas tax rate of 4 cents per gallon to future annual inflation, the gas tax alone would be generating almost $56B this year for Highway Trust Fund investments.  There would be no 2014 HTF crisis looming October 1 that could shut-off federal investment for any new state transportation department highway, bridge and transit projects during FY 2015.  It is also a fact that today’s 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax has 50 percent less purchasing power than the 4 cents per gallon tax had in 1961.

Trust Fund in Crisis