Tag Archive for 'infrastructure'

Nonresidential Construction Spending Falls Modestly in May, Says ABC

National nonresidential construction spending declined 0.9% in May, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data published today by the U.S. Census Bureau. On a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, spending totaled $812.5 billion for the month. Private nonresidential spending declined 2.4% in May and public nonresidential construction spending increased 1.2%. 

“Certain aspects of today’s data release are precisely what was anticipated, while other elements are rather surprising,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For instance, the precipitous 5.3% decline in health care-related construction spending is hardly shocking, as many elective surgeries, dental appointments and wellness checkups were postponed, resulting in billions of dollars of losses among medical systems. In addition, many medical systems have experienced large-scale layoffs in an effort to preserve cash balances.

“Other segments negatively affected include lodging, manufacturing and power, which was expected,” said Basu. “A general lack of travel and occupancy has slowed hotel construction. A shrunken global economy and disrupted worldwide supply chains have pummeled industrial construction. And the energy sector has taken a hit from commodity prices that remain significantly lower than pre-crisis levels, truncating demand for new construction. 

“What is surprising is the overall stability of construction spending,” said Basu. “In May, nonresidential construction spending declined by less than 1%, which represents a level of stability not enjoyed by much of the balance of the economy. Spending in a number of categories, mostly public, was higher for the month, including highway/street, public safety, transportation and water supply. Moreover, certain construction segments may experience rapid recovery going forward, including health care, manufacturing and power. For now, construction spending data and ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator, which stood at 7.9 months in May, show that the industry has managed to remain a bulwark of relative stability in the face of ongoing pandemic-induced economic dislocations.”

Visit abc.org/economics for the Construction Backlog Indicator and Construction Confidence Index, plus analysis of spending, employment, GDP and the Producer Price Index.

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 69 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org  

Going the Distance

High-Volume Asphalt Maintenance Mixture Sets Innovative Roadway Solutions on the Path to Productivity

The hardest part of a project for most contractors is the bid. Balancing customer specs with overhead costs to produce a number both sides are comfortable with takes skill and a deep understanding of an operation’s capabilities. Partnering with industry-leading OEMs to provide efficiency-optimizing equipment can give contractors an edge in the bidding process. But a tool is only as good as the hand wielding it – or, in the case of asphalt preservation applications, the one applying it. In this competitive industry, a successful bid requires expert leveraging of experience and equipment to provide quality results with no waste.

For Innovative Roadway Solutions success means taking advantage of new innovations, even if they present a challenge to current processes. The company partnered with Neal Manufacturing to help meet quality and efficiency needs on specialized high-volume highway and shoulder applications

For Innovative Roadway Solutions – a pavement preservation specialist operating in Texas, Missouri, and the surrounding states – success also means taking advantage of new innovations, even if they present a challenge to current processes. This was the case when the company began using Onyx, a high-performance mastic sealer produced by Ingevity and spec’d by several DOTs in its operating area. To apply Onyx efficiently, Innovative Roadway Solutions needed an OEM partner with not only the experience to produce reliable equipment for the high-aggregate mixture; it needed a manufacturer willing to listen and custom-engineer machines for specialized high-volume highway and shoulder applications. So, the company turned to Neal Manufacturing, a division of Blastcrete Equipment LLC, for a solution to help them maintain their reputation for quality and dependability and still be able to submit competitive bids. 

Challenging the Status Quo

With more than 30 years of experience, Innovative Roadway Solutions always strives to provide affordable preventative maintenance applications that extend the longevity of asphalt roadways. In 2017, the company became part of Lionmark Construction Companies, a privately held group specializing in pavement preservation and road and bridge construction. The acquisition extended Innovative Roadway Solutions’ service area and gave the company a chance to grow, doubling its size in just two years.

One thing that remained constant throughout the growth period is the company’s commitment to harnessing the latest technology and products for the benefit of its customers. New and existing employees worked together to ensure Innovative Roadway Solutions remained just that – innovative. As they grew service offerings, they looked to incorporate processes and products popular across Lionmark’s area of operation.

Onyx was one such product. Introduced in 2012, the frictional mastic surface treatment quickly gained popularity with DOTs across the U.S. It offers high durability with frictional characteristics achieved from improving micro texture on the pavement surface. Fast drying times makes it popular with contractors and motorists alike, while the consistently black color offers striking contrast for aesthetic and safety benefits. For Innovative Roadway Solutions, the high-performance product looked to revolutionize pavement preservation processes in terms of durability and affordability. 

“Onyx was starting to show up on the spec sheets for DOT projects in numerous states, which are about 95 percent of our business, but even where customers weren’t specifically asking for it, we recognized its value for certain applications,” said Kevin King, President of Innovative Roadway Solutions. “The product bridged the gap between a fog seal and slurry seal, allowing us to offer customers another solution that would extend the life of their road surface without breaking the bank.”

Innovative Roadway Solutions worked with Neal Manufacturing to retrofit one of its existing high-volume application trucks with the HDP system and spray apparatus. It also bought a new 3,000-gallon truck system from the OEM. Equipped with the Generation IV 150-gpm pump, the new truck provided productivity like never before.

But there were a few bumps in the road when it came to integrating the new product into its service lineup.

The Path to Productivity

“Contracts with government agencies at the city, county and state level aren’t easy to get,” King said. “It’s not just about the lowest bid, though that is definitely a part of it. It’s about reputation. The high aggregate composition of Onyx requires a stronger pump than other spray applications. To maintain our reputation for quality and dependability and still be able to submit competitive bids, we needed specialized equipment that provided the volume and precision that customers required.”

When it came to pump design, Innovative Roadways Solutions knew there was no one in the pavement preservation industry with more experience than Neal Manufacturing and their parent company, Blastcrete Equipment LLC. Both companies have long histories of pump innovations. Since the 1950s, Blastcrete Equipment has been at the forefront of shotcrete pumping technology – introducing several equipment designs over the years that revolutionized applications in refractory and construction applications. Neal Manufacturing has similar claims to pump fame in the pavement preservation industry. Before its merger with Blastcrete in 2013, the company made significant innovations to hydraulic piston pumps to allow more efficiency and longevity for use with asphalt sealcoating products. Once the companies began operating out of the same Alabama-based facility, engineers continued to expand pump capacities for a number of applications. This combined experience and continued innovation earned Innovative Roadway Solutions’ trust.

“When dealing with high-aggregate products, Blastcrete provides a unique expertise other OEMs don’t have,” King said. “Their pumps are originally designed to handle robust, difficult materials. When they integrated that technology with Neal Manufacturing equipment, which already had excellent pumps for traditional preservation coatings, we knew we were working with a winning team for developing high-aggregate pavement preservation equipment.”

As Innovative Roadway Solutions made the transition to Onyx applications, the team worked with Neal Manufacturing to upgrade the pumps on some of their existing equipment to a more reliable hydraulic piston pump. Neal Manufacturing’s heavy-duty aggregate pump (HDP) system offered the fastest transfer rate on the market – up to 150 gpm – but more importantly, produced enough pressure to move mixtures with up to 10 pounds of sand per gallon. 

With a metering system custom-engineered from Neal Manufacturing, Innovative Roadway Solutions could accurately assess application rates and ensure uniform distribution of the surface treatment, allowing the contractor to remain a competitive bidder with agencies across its area of operation.

“Using Onyx with a traditional pump system results in a lot of unnecessary downtime,” King said. “Asphalt maintenance has a very limited season, only about seven months in some of the states we work in, so we need to make every minute count. Neal Manufacturing’s equipment is simple, easy to use and durable. With it there’s less cleaning, less maintenance and fewer clogs, saving us valuable minutes every day.” 

To truly maximize its potential on high-volume projects, Innovative Roadway Solutions needed more than a heavy-duty pump – it needed a reliable system with the precision to meet government agency specs. 

Miles to Go

Innovative Roadway Solutions worked with Neal Manufacturing to retrofit one of its existing high-volume application trucks with the HDP system and spray apparatus. It also bought a new 3,000-gallon truck system from the OEM. Equipped with the Generation IV 150-gpm pump, the new truck provided productivity like never before.

The basic design also provided a number of features that made application more user friendly for Innovative Roadway Solution crews. In-cab controls allowed drivers to easily control spray bar height for optimum control as weight shifted during application. This on-board system was also capable of controlling individual heads to provide more precision and flexibility for applications on narrow surfaces. 

However, the precision required by DOT and other government agencies still needed to be accounted for.

“We were bidding on projects with specified application rates, but, at first, we didn’t have a way to monitor that with the Neal Manufacturing system,” King said. “We had the right equipment but the trucks had to be modified to meet our customers’ standards. With Neal Manufacturing’s reputation for customized solutions, we knew we had the right partner to help us develop the appropriate equipment for our operation.”

True to their reputation, Neal Manufacturing listened to exactly what Innovative Roadway Solutions needed and engineered a metering system to work in conjunction with the contractor’s High-Volume Road Maintenance Vehicle. The system combined information for four load cells positioned on the corners of the tank with a component that measures distance to provide an accurate application rate. The OEM also included an on-board printer to provide immediate results when necessary. 

“It’s not always easy to find a manufacturer that’s willing to collaborate,” King said. “Often what you see is what you get when it comes to pavement preservation equipment. Or you have to wait awhile for the updated model to come out. Having Neal Manufacturing on our team meant that not only did we get the upgrades we needed quickly, but they’re now standard and will be available on the next high-volume vehicle we buy.”

With the new system, Innovative Roadway Solutions could accurately assess application rates and ensure uniform distribution, allowing the contractor to remain a competitive bidder with agencies across its area of operation.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Since 2017, Innovative Roadway Solutions has completed approximately 25 contracts spec’ing Onyx. The majority of these have been with local, state or federal agencies, requiring a high degree of precision, quality and dependability. All of which the asphalt maintenance contractor provides time and again.

“We’re still submitting the low bid for these projects,” King said, “but at this point, some of these agencies are more like our loyal customers. They know we will get the job done quickly, efficiently, and to spec.”

For one such project, completed for the Paris District of the TxDOT, Innovative Roadway Solutions applied 767,331 square yards of Onyx in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day weekend in 2019. As part of the overall job, crews used the Neal Manufacturing equipment to apply the mastic sealer to 207,748 square yards of parking areas, boat ramps, main grounds and RV spots at US Army Corps of Engineers Lake Jim Chapman at Cooper Dam, commonly called Cooper Lake. The application didn’t disturb visitors and surfaces were dry enough to resume normal traffic in time for the holiday. 

“This is a great time to be in the asphalt maintenance industry,” King said. “The process is changing. New products are coming out. Experienced manufacturers are stepping up to provide the equipment we need to leverage these to our customer’s advantage. It’s an ideal environment for Innovative Roadway Solutions to continue growing and continue pushing ourselves.”

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

Steering Through Sandy Soils

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. Upgrades Garden City Sewer System

By Neville Missen

The economy in Garden City, Kansas, is strong with the recent opening of a Dairy Farmers of America plant. Approximately 4 million pounds of milk from regional farmers make its way to the dairy plant each day, which has led to expansion for many other companies throughout the area. To keep up with the expected growth from the dairy industry and other retail stores being constructed nearby, Garden City is upgrading existing utilities to ensure they are prepared to handle current and future needs.

Garden City’s most recent project involves upgrading its existing sewer system to larger diameter piping near the dairy plant. While most of the work is being done using open-trench methods, there are several road crossings where trenchless methods needed to be employed. And to install the large casings deep underground, auger boring has been selected as the method of choice. 

Dialing Up a Trusted Partner

When specialty trenchless work needs to be done Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Co. of Exeter, Nebraska, is a trusted partner that many general construction companies call in. Since 1983, Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Owner Brent Moore and his team have been performing underground construction work throughout the country. Horizontal Boring & Tunneling crews perform everything from auger and guided boring to microtunneling and pipe jacking across Colorado, the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling Project Manager, Kenton Moore, said their crews have been part of some huge projects. “We don’t shy away from big pipe. We do a lot of 60-, 72-, 84- and 96-inch diameter pipe installations,” Moore explained. “There are not a lot of companies as highly specialized as we are, which is why we are usually called on to handle large diameter bores.”

Doug Godown, Project Supervisor, and Roger Glenn, Crew Supervisor, of Horizontal Boring & Tunneling spend a lot of time in Kansas performing auger boring work. In fact, Glenn’s crew has spent most of the winter working in Garden City and the Kansas City area. “We usually work year-round, no matter what the weather is like,” he explained. “Over the years, we’ve gotten good at staying warm and ensuring our machinery is ready to go no matter what the temperature is.” 

Two-Month-Long Project

For the Garden City sewer expansion project, Glenn’s crew was pulled in to perform four 42-inch bores at depths of 12 to 13 feet in sandy soils. Bore distances were 75, 272, 280 and 383 feet long, and the bores exited into manholes at a 0.06 percent drop, so everything had to be on target. 

“Over the years, we’ve done around 10 bores in the Garden City area, so we knew what to expect on this one,” Glenn explained. “Soil conditions are sandy, which makes it a major challenge to stay on grade. Sandy soils can have air voids, water pockets and areas with sandstone. We also have to battle with the sand packing in around the casing because of the vibration in the hole.” 

The project was slated to take a total of 10 weeks, but thanks to a new tool in the Horizontal Boring & Tunneling fleet, the crew wrapped everything up two weeks early. 

New Way of Steering

On this project, the crew used the McLaughlin ON-TARGET auger boring steering system to keep the casings on grade with minimal side deviation. The 42-inch ON-TARGET steering head is welded onto the front of the first casing being installed. Crew members are then able to check and maintain the line throughout the bore with twin-line projection LED lights enclosed in the steering head and control the movement of the steering head – as well as hydraulic, water and electrical lines – from a self-contained control station. 

Horizontal Boring & Tunneling used the ON-TARGET system with its existing auger boring machine. “We’re familiar with McLaughlin auger boring equipment, but that’s not what we had on this job – we were using another manufacturer’s machine,” explained Glenn. “What’s nice about this system is that it will work with any auger boring machine – it doesn’t matter who made it, which makes it a pretty darn cost-effective option to add to a job.” 

The ON-TARGET steering system is an upgrade to how the crew would typically handle these bores. Glenn said they would have normally used a conventional head with left and right pads and would have pulled the auger out every 40 feet to measure where they were. Then, they would make adjustments to direction as needed, reset the auger and do another 40 to 60 feet. At 100 feet, they would also shoot the line grade. “The conventional way is a much more time-consuming process,” he added. “The ON-TARGET system saves a ton of time – on this job, a full two weeks.” 

Attention to the Details

The crew of six, along with a pair of John Deere excavators, prepared for the bores by digging entrance pits. They set 32-foot trench boxes with a 15-foot spread at a depth of 12 to 13 feet for the 75- and 272-foot bores. They dug a 64-foot long pit between the 280- and 383-foot bores since those backed up to each other. Compacted rock was used for a base in all of the entrance pits. 

The shorter bores were under a road that leads to the dairy plant and the driveway of a trucking company that hauls milk out of the facility. The 280-foot bore was under a state highway, and the longest shot was under a road to a sandpit. 

“Interrupting everyday operations at the plant or the trucking company was not an option, which is why they called us in,” said Glenn. “While I’m sure people knew there was an underground crew working in the area, no one had to change their normal routines to accommodate us.” 

After preparing each entrance pit, the auger boring machine was lowered into the ground where the first piece of casing with the ON-TARGET steering head was added. The crews worked the shorter bores in 20-foot increments. On the longer bores, they would install 40-foot joints, which certainly sped up production rates. “By the time we got to the longer bores, we had complete confidence in the ON-TARGET steering system,” said Glenn. “So, we welded up two casings at a time. On the first day of the last bore, we did 100 feet, 120 feet on the second day and 160 feet on the third day. The bore went quickly.” 

Hitting the Mark

More important than production rates, the team hit their exit mark on all four bores perfectly. “This was our first time using the McLaughlin ON-TARGET steering system, so I was a bit nervous on the first bore,” Glenn said. “McLaughlin sent out an expert to help us get started. By the end of his visit, we were confident that we knew what we were doing. We hit all of our marks right on target.” 

This material appeared in the June 2020 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder

ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator Inches Higher in May; Contractor Confidence Continues to Rebound

Associated Builders and Contractors reported today that its Construction Backlog Indicator rose to 7.9 months in May, an increase of less than 0.1 months from April’s reading. Furthermore, based on an ABC member survey conducted May 20-June 3, results indicate that confidence among U.S. construction industry leaders continued to rebound from the historically low levels observed in the March survey.

Nonresidential construction backlog is down 0.8 months compared to May 2019 and declined year over year in every industry, classification and region. Backlog in the heavy industrial category, however, increased by nearly one month in May after reaching its lowest level in the history of the series in April.  

Associated Builders and Contractors reported today that its Construction Backlog Indicator rose to 7.9 months in May, an increase of less than 0.1 months from April’s reading. Furthermore, based on an ABC member survey conducted May 20-June 3, results indicate that confidence among U.S. construction industry leaders continued to rebound from the historically low levels observed in the March survey.

Nonresidential construction backlog is down 0.8 months compared to May 2019 and declined year over year in every industry, classification and region. Backlog in the heavy industrial category, however, increased by nearly one month in May after reaching its lowest level in the history of the series in April.  

“Given the depth of the economic downturn and myriad other issues facing America today, backlog and contractor confidence data have held up better than one might have anticipated,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “But the marketplace is still tilted toward pessimism. For instance, more contractors expect sales and profit margins to decline than increase over the next six months, which is consistent with anecdotal information suggesting that many project owners are considering postponing projects and possibly rebidding them.

“After falling meaningfully in April, backlog remained relatively unchanged in May, hinting at a stable nonresidential construction marketplace,” said Basu. “However, the underlying survey received fewer responses compared to earlier months in the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps suggesting that some contractors are no longer operating at previous capacity, inducing available work to move toward better-positioned contractors. To the extent that these stronger contractors are reflected in the survey, this would tend to bolster average backlog even in the context of a subdued marketplace.

“Contractors still expect to boost staffing levels over the next six months,” said Basu. “But this may simply be a function of jobsites reopening as construction shutdowns end. Almost 70% of respondents had jobsites shut down due to government mandates and other reasons, and with labor shortages in place before the pandemic, contractors may have residual staffing needs. It remains to be seen whether expected employment growth going forward coincide.

Note: The reference months for the Construction Backlog Indicator and Construction Confidence Index data series were revised on May 12 to better reflect the survey period. CBI quantifies the previous month’s work under contract based on the latest financials available, while CCI measures contractors’ outlook for the next six months. 
Click here for historical CCI and CBI data and here for methodology. Visit abc.org/economics for the CBI and CCI reports, plus analysis of spending, employment, GDP and the Producer Price Index.

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 69 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org.  

ARTBA Issues Statement on House “INVEST in America” Act

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has released the “INVEST in America Act,” a surface transportation legislative proposal that calls for spending $494 billion over five-years to repair the nation’s roads, bridges, rail and public transportation systems. Please attribute the following statement to American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President and CEO Dave Bauer.
 
“If America can put astronauts back in space for the first time in nearly a decade with a little help from the private sector, surely we can do something similar to modernize our aging transportation network.
 
“With the most severe economic disruption since the Great Depression and continuity of state transportation improvement programs in doubt, the case for Congress to deliver a robustly funded infrastructure bill has never been stronger.  
 
“The transportation construction industry, in partnership with public agency officials, is ready to rebuild the nation’s highways, bridges and public transit systems.
 
“The release of the House bill complements efforts already underway in the Senate.  The FAST Act transportation law expires in less than 120 days.  It’s time to hit the gas on the legislative process to ensure that infrastructure investment springboards economic recovery.”
 
Established in 1902 and with more than 8,000 public and private sector members, the Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA advocates for strong investment in transportation infrastructure to meet the public and business community demand for safe and efficient travel.
 For more information visit www.artba.org