Market Trends

Megaprojects Give April's New Construction Stats a Boost

Construction starts rose 10% in April from March's levels, thanks in part to two megaprojects that got underway during the month, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. Dodge D&A on May 21 reported that April starts climbed to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $698.7 billion. But excluding $1-billion-plus projects, April's volume was down 3% from the previous month, the company noted. (ENR is part of Dodge D&A.) The April results received a major boost from an $8.1-billion Sasol petrochemical plant in Louisiana and a $1.2-billion mixed-use high-rise at Hudson Yards in New York City. Dodge D&A also said that, for the first four months of 2015, total construction starts soared 24%, to $208.2 billion, year over year, not seasonally adjusted.

Federal Projects

Last-Minute Congressional Deal Keeps Colo. VA Project Going

President Obama has signed a bill providing stopgap funding to allow work to continue on a Dept. of Veterans Affairs hospital replacement project in Aurora, Colo. Without the infusion of $20 million in short-term funds, the project would have reached its $800-million funding cap over the holiday weekend, and work would have stopped. The House had approved the bill one day earlier. The new money allows the JV contractor, Kiewit-Turner, to stay on the job for at least another three weeks, when the project will again reach its cap. Estimates by the VA and the Army Corps of Engineers place the project's long-term cost at $1.73 billion, so the VA will need an additional $830 million to finish the facility.

Highway Safety

FHWA Sets New Criteria for Guardrails, Other Roadside Gear

The Federal Highway Administration is changing its requirements for determining whether guardrails and other roadside safety equipment are eligible for federal funding reimbursement. In a May 19 Federal Register notice, FHWA said that, beginning on Jan. 1, it will require any roadside device with proposed modifications to meet full-scale crash-test standards under the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials' Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware, issued in 2009. The crash- test data must be submitted, even if the equipment had earlier met National Cooperative Highway Research Program Report 350 criteria, the agency said.


Massachusetts Studying Plan To Decongest Cape Cod Traffic

A plan to build a privately funded third bridge over the Cape Cod Canal to ease traffic congestion is gaining momentum. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said the plan "depends a lot on the ability of finding somebody who wants to finance it and all the issues associated with constructing it." The new one-way toll bridge, which would be limited to cape-bound traffic, would be built immediately west of the 80-year-old Sagamore Bridge, where its three lanes would be converted to only off-cape traffic. The Bourne Bridge, similar in age, would keep its two lanes in each direction. Fay, Spofford and Thorndike is studying traffic patterns around Cape Cod for the Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation. Over the summer, the agency and the consulting engineer plan to assess the impact of the third bridge.