Photo by Tom Sawyer for ENR
A schoolgirl rides a train in Northern Japan after the multiple disasters.
White House photo
President Obama and Congressional leaders struggled with transportation funding issues all year.



The editors of ENR looked back at the stories that stood out in 2011. With business slow and Congress deadlocked, much of the news centered on public works budgets, politics and tough times for unions. Technology continued to reshape communications, criminal indictments put some managers and executives in legal jeopardy, revolutions remade the Arab world and a disaster of near-Biblical proportion struck Japan. The pace of change never seemed so relentless.

Hard Times Spur Shift in Bargaining Power


Across the country, tensions ran high at the bargaining table. The bottom of the recession made concessions by unions the key element sought, and for the most part won, by employers. In New York City, the era of union employers restricted to only hiring union subs came to an end.

Agonizing Wait Over Surface Transportation Authorization

More than two years after the last multi-year highway-transit law expired, Congress still is unable to approve a long-term successor bill, making it hard for state DOTs, and transportation design and construction firms to plan.

Construction Manager Acquittals in NYC’s Fatal Deutsche Bank Building Fire

Managers working on the asbestos cleanup and demolition of the high rise near Ground Zero had faced manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges in the deaths of two firefighters. All three defendants were acquitted.


Criminal Indictment of Crane Rental Firm Owner James Lomma


The fallout from crane collapses in New York City in 2008 continued. Crane owner James Lomma, originally set to go on trial in November, now has a February 2012 court date. Lomma's former head mechanic Tibor Varganyi changed his not-guilty plea to guilty as the original trial-date loomed.

Congress Reaches a Debt Deal, but Supercommittee Flops

An 11th-hour Congressional deal averted a U.S. default on its debt obligations, but the committee charged with making $1.5 trillion in additional cuts failed to reach agreement. This may trigger across-the-board cuts if no solution is found.

Former Head of Engineer Louis Berger Group Indicted

A federal grand jury indicted Derish Wolff on charges related to inflated costs, believed to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts won by the firm on overseas contractors over nearly 20 years.

After Earthquake and Tsunami, A Nuclear Nightmare


Serious quakes in 2011 caused damage and death in New Zealand and Turkey, but no one had ever seen tidal waves like those that hit northern Japan when its temblor hit. Damage to the Fukushima nuclear plants spurred many countries to pull back on nuclear power and switch to other energy sources.


HDR Readies for Battle in Project Dispute with Tampa Bay Water


When have we ever seen a design firm put up a website in a legal fight with an owner? Earlier in 2011, attorneys for the water utility passed up a settlement, aware that the firm's liability is unlimited under Florida law.


Airport Construction Comes to A Stop, then Starts Again

When a fight between the House and Senate over a Federal Aviation Administration appropriations bill came to an impasse, hundreds of millions of dollars in airport construction projects stopped dead.

New House Republican Majority Pledges to Cut

After the Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives, the new majority and its ultra-conservative freshmen dedicated themselves to cutting the size and spending of the federal government.