Total Construction Starts End 2013 With 6% Increase

The dollar value of total construction starts ended 2013 with a 6% gain, according to McGraw Hill Construction's Dodge starts data for December. "The construction industry in 2013 made progress toward a more broad-based recovery after several years in which the upturn was more limited in scope," says Robert Murray, MHC's chief economist. Housing led the way with a 24% year-to-year increase, followed by a 7% increase in non-residential work.

Colorado Mountain Highway Reopens After Massive Rock Slide

After weeks of harrowing rockfall work, one lane of U.S. 550 in southwestern Colorado is open to traffic on a limited basis. A massive rock slide closed the remote highway on Jan. 13. The two-lane road winds over 11,018-ft-high Red Mountain Pass. The closure came when a section of rock the size of a football field sheared away from a towering cliff, known as Ruby Walls, and sent 7,000 to 10,000 cu yd of debris onto the highway 900 ft below. Boulders punched holes in the roadway and created a slide zone 200 ft long and 8 ft deep. The Colorado Dept. of Transportation called in technical climbers to help CDOT's crews reach the slide area and place wire nets to contain the unstable slope.

Ontario Charges Engineer as Negligent in Fatal Mall Collapse

Provincial police in Ontario, Canada, on Jan. 31 charged former engineer Robert Wood, 64, with three counts of criminal negligence related to his role as inspector of an Elliot Lake mall roof that collapsed on June 23, 2012, killing two store employees. Wood, former president of M.R. Wright & Associates Inc., Sault Sainte Marie, faces two criminal counts related to the deaths and one related to injuries to another person. A police investigation, with analysis by four Canadian engineers and contractors, began in July 2012.

Wood testified to an inquiry commission that the Algo Centre Mall roof was sound in May 2012, only weeks before it fell. More than 125 people testified. The commission report is set for completion in late October. Detective Superintendent David Truax said Wood was arrested on Jan. 31 and is set to appear in an Elliot Lake court on March 25, but Truax declined further comment. Neither Wood nor his attorney would comment to Canadian media. He faces a possible life sentence on the fatality charges and could be charged separately by the Ministry of Labour, says The Toronto Star. Truax would not say if charges against others were pending.