Construction Starts Up 5%

The dollar value of new construction starts through the first three quarters of 2014 was $419.5 billion, according to McGraw Hill Construction Dodge. That total was 5% more than the same period a year ago. Most of the growth came from a 17% increase in non-residential building, a sector that got a major boost from Atlanta's $948-million football stadium and a $717-million casino in Maryland. Education, the largest non-residential market, increased 34% in September, helped by $250 million for two Texas high-school projects and a $150-million research lab in Cambridge, Mass.

Turning Natural Gas Into Plastic

North Dakota is planning a $4-billion investment in a polyethylene manufacturing plant to tap into the state's abundant supplies of natural-gas liquids. The plant will convert, annually, ethane to 1.5 million tons of low-density and high-density plastics for use in consumer and industry products.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) and project owner William J. Gilliam, CEO of Badlands NGL LLC, Walnut Creek, Calif., announced the plans on Oct. 13. Técnicas Reunidas S.A., Madrid, is performing a preliminary engineering analysis, with final site selection set by year-end. Vinmar International is providing project finance support and has signed a mutually binding, 15-year memorandum of understanding with Badlands for 100% of the polyethylene produced.

Pennsylvania To Replace 558 Bridges, Spending $899 Million

The Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation has selected Plenary Walsh Keystone Partners for its Rapid Bridge Replacement Project, a public-private partnership to replace 558 bridges across the state. The team, which includes in its proposal 11 Pennsylvania-based subcontractors, must begin construction next summer and complete the replacements within 36 months. The state retains ownership of the bridges, but the team must maintain each span for 25 years after its replacement. The team's winning proposal was $899 million. The average cost for design, construction and maintenance per bridge is $1.6 million.

Contractor Layne Christensen Agrees to Bribe Settlement

Contractor Layne Christensen Co. has agreed to pay about $5.1 million to settle civil charges that, between 2005 and 2010, it bribed government officials in several African countries in exchange for favorable tax treatment, customs clearance and other improper benefits, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Oct. 27. The firm, which had self- reported the activities and neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, agreed to report to the SEC on its compliance progress for two years, company general counsel Steve Crooke told ENR.

The U.S. Justice Dept. had announced in August that it would not file charges against the firm based on its previous cooperation and remedial actions. Layne Christensen is working for a private client in Mali, among other work in Africa, says Crooke. Layne Christensen ranks at No. 66 on ENR's list of the Top 400 Contractors, with $841.5 million in 2013 revenue.