...Parsons Infrastructure & Technology of Pasadena, Calif., is building a $617-million processing facility for radioactive salt solutions at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.
Energy is also the watchword in higher education, another of the region’s traditionally strong markets. Balfour Beatty is wrapping up work on the $28-million East Campus Steam Plant at Duke University in Durham, while Turner has been tapped for the 200,000-sq-ft Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, a research facility at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
T.A. Loving is also working on separate stadium expansion projects at UNC Chapel Hill and East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., while Skanksa has started on the $127-million James B. Hunt Library at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Still, higher-education activity has tapered off considerably in North Carolina because funding from a $4-billion bond package, passed in 2000, is mostly spent.
Skanska’s Stouthamer says that because the program’s original $8-billion total was halved in order to be more politically palatable to voters, “there’s $4 billion of pent-up demand on the state’s college campuses, but there’s no funding for it.”
Falling Public Revenues Also having more needs than funds to pay for them is the public sector, normally a reliable construction industry refuge during slowdowns on the private side. With revenue shortfalls forcing both state and local governments to rearrange their spending priorities, many projects have been placed on hold.
Still, Wake County, N.C., is moving forward with its $214-million Justice Center program, which includes a 500,000-sq-ft, 11-story tower being built by the joint venture of Barnhill and Balfour Beatty, and an expansion of the Hammond Road Detention Center being constructed by Skanska.
Leslie Hope, South Carolina building division director for the Carolinas chapter of Associated General Contractors in Columbia, says that school construction in her state “seems to have started to pick up over the past six months as school systems are taking advantage of good prices.”
For example, Pickens County is in the midst of a $365-million facilities program that will deliver more than 1 million sq ft of new space. H.G. Reynolds Co. of Aiken, S.C., has been tapped for a 152,000-sq-ft career and technology center, while Bowen & Watson of Taccoa, Ga., is constructing two elementary schools.
Contractors involved in the county’s CM-at-risk high school projects include Trehel Corp. of Clemson, S.C.; Balfour Beatty of Charlotte; Gilbane Building of Norcross, Ga.; and SYS Constructors of Greenville, S.C.
Infrastructure contractors in both North and South Carolina have benefitted from the federal stimulus program. North Carolina also received a $10-million TIGER grant for the Interstate 85 Yadkin River Bridge project near Salisbury, N.C., and $570 million in federal high-speed rail funding.
Berry Jenkins, North Carolina highway division director for the Carolinas AGC in Charlotte, predicts that it will likely be another two years before this windfall translates into construction contracts. “We’re looking forward to having this work added to traditional highway programs,” he says.
North Carolina is also seeing progress on new toll roads. Components under way on the 18.8-mi Triangle Expressway in Raleigh include the 12.6-mi, $446-million design-build Western Wake Freeway segment being led by Raleigh-Durham Roadbuilders, a joint venture of Archer Western Contractors and Granite Construction Co., and the $137.6-million Triangle Parkway segment being constructed by S.T. Wooten Corp., Wilson, N.C.
Still, Jenkins says the transportation sector has more questions than answers. “It’d be nice to have a complete surface transportation reauthorization or even another stimulus,” he says. “Otherwise, we’ll just continue the current funding for the rest of the year.”
Despite hopeful signs in the broader economy, “there’s just too much uncertainty with the economy and job creation to spark a major rally” in the Carolinas, Cochrane says.
Ferguson agrees that it’s good to see the stock market moving up, “but because construction is a lagging indicator, it won’t affect our industry for about 24 months. As long as these trends hold, we feel good about 2011, but we feel very good about 2012.”