The inevitable advent of autonomous vehicles isn’t slowing down the planning and construction of large-scale transportation projects in the Mid-Atlantic region. While the second phase of  Virginia’s Metrorail Silver Line is on track for a 2020 completion and Maryland’s Purple Line broke ground in August, Elon Musk’s Boring Co. received a conditional utility permit to build a 10.3-mile East Coast Hyperloop tunnel in October. The project involves still-experimental high-speed transit technology and will include twin 35-mile tubes underneath state highways between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and could reduce to 29 minutes the trip between New York City and D.C. Also in October, a private company proposed a high-speed magnetic-levitation rail line between Baltimore and D.C.

Nevertheless, Kevin Cole, chief executive of Manassas, Va.-based Ennis Electric Co. Inc., says these transit projects would be “complementary” to autonomous vehicles because travelers could take them into D.C. and “then take a driverless car the last mile.”

Ennis, which is providing electrical work on six new Silver Line stations between Reston, Va., and Dulles International Airport, also has an outstanding bid for the planned Metrorail station at Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Va. Cole says Joseph Leader’s first 17 months as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) chief operating officer is another reason to be “optimistic” about future regional transportation work. “There’s a new sheriff in town at WMATA,” Cole says. “He’s intent on fixing everything that’s broken and expanding the rail line to accommodate what all the localities need in this area.” 

With $55.32 million in revenue, Ennis ranks at No. 15 on ENR MidAtlantic’s 2017 Top Specialty Construction list. The 32 participating firms collected a total of $3.1 billion in revenue in 2016, up from the $2.4 billion reported by 18 firms the previous year.    

EMCOR Group Inc. leads the pack for the second straight year, with $925.25 in revenue, up from $908.21 million. ColonialWebb, a Comfort Systems USA company, jumped up one spot, to No. 2, reporting $340.3 million in revenue and eclipsing Mastec Inc., which fell one slot after a $350-million decline in revenue. The region includes Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

ENR Mid-Atlantic 2017 Top Specialty Contractors

Residential Slowdown

After apartment and condo buildings were built at a breakneck speed in the past several years, the residential sector is starting to slow down across the region. As a result, drywall contractor Philadelphia D&M says its proposal volume could decrease by as much as 10% in 2018. With $106.09 million in revenue, the No. 9-ranked firm, enjoyed a 10% to 15% year-over-year volume increase the previous three years. “I can’t tell for sure if it’s just a pause or truly something that’s going to continue,” says Craig Melograno, the firm’s president. “There does seem to be a lot more work for the second half of 2018 than the first half of 2018.”

While the residential market is cooling off, Melograno says the pipeline for hospital work remains strong. His firm is eyeing two integrated-project-delivery hospital jobs and currently is working on three IPDs, including the $240-million Bryn Mawr Hospital Pavilion Expansion in suburban Philadelphia. D&M’s scope on the project includes spray fireproofing, window shades, drywalls and exterior walls. Melograno says the project, slated to complete by the end of 2018, is “absolutely working out for everyone involved. We’ve done a lot of neat things there with regard to influencing design and helping the building get enclosed quicker.”

Museums Mark the Spot

Museum work is keeping specialty firms busy. Philadelphia D&M is working on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s renovation and expansion. The firm is performing millwork, spray fireproofing and plasterwork on the $196-million “core project” to make the museum more accessible.

Breaking ground in April, the museum’s first renovation phase launched Frank Gehry’s $350-million master plan that will add a total of 90,000 sq ft to the museum. “This phase is not nearly as spectacular as the phase that’s coming,” says Melograno, whose firm worked on the Museum of the American Revolution.

In Washington, D.C., Ennis recently completed the Museum of the Bible and now is working on the new 140,000-sq-ft International Spy Museum, in L’Enfant Plaza in southwestern D.C. Ennis is providing all the electrical work, including the exhibition lighting and the four-story, exposed fire-engine-red columns cantilevering over the sidewalk. “It’s pretty spectacular,” Cole says of the project, which is expected to be completed in summer 2018.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s $650-million renovation is expected to begin this summer, too. Cole says the mechanical, electrical and plumbing packages will be released this winter.