With unemployment stubbornly high, interest seems to be building in Congress for measures aimed at producing more jobs. Proposals in the mix may include extending American Recovery and Reinvestment Act tax and benefit provisions that are to expire soon. There also is a rumor that additional highway spending is under consideration. Photo: AP/Wideworld Reid and Pelosi met with Obama to discuss ways to create more jobs in the economy. Worries about the nation’s jobless rate are driving the discussion, observers agree. The national unemployment rate edged up in September to 9.8%, from 9.7% in August. Construction’s rate remained much worse,
Business groups and organized labor are at odds over the nomination of David Michaels, President Obama’s pick to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They agree that Michaels, if confirmed by the Senate, would likely shift OSHA’s focus from voluntary compliance programs to stronger enforcement. While unions typically support that approach, business organizations are worried Michaels would take an adversarial approach toward employers, and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are pressing for the Senate to schedule a confirmation hearing. Michaels, an epidemiologist, served as assistant secretary of energy for environment, safety and health from 1998 to 2001.
Competition for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act high-speed-rail funding has grown even more intense. The Federal Railroad Administration reported on Oct. 6 it had received 45 applications from 24 states, seeking a total of about $50 billion for ARRA high-speed-rail corridor grants. Applications for the corridor funds closed Oct. 2 and represent the second ARRA high-speed-rail grant round. Round one, for individual, ready-to-go projects, drew 214 applications totaling $7 billion from 34 states. The combined $57 billion in requests far exceeds the $8 billion ARRA provided for high-speed rail. FRA “will be announcing all awards this winter,” says Administrator Joseph
Despite an increasing number of federal stimulus projects under way, construction’s unemployment rate rose in September as the industry lost 64,000 more jobs. Industry officials say the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been a help but has not halted construction’s continued huge layoffs. Note: Rates Are Not Seasonally Adjusted Source: U.S. Dept. Of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics The industry’s September jobless rate climbed to 17.1%, from 16.5% in August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Oct. 2. Construction’s rate remains the highest among industries. The 17.1% mark also was well above the industry’s September 2008 level of
An updated Construction Management Standards of Practice from the Construction Management Association of America includes, for the first time, sections on sustainability, building information modeling and risk management. The document, last revised six years ago, was a two-year association effort. CMAA says the document also is for use by owners to give them an idea of what to expect from construction-management and program-management practitioners.
Unable to finish some major bills before Sept. 30 deadlines, Congress is turning to stopgap measures to keep important federal construction programs running until lawmakers can strike deals on more permanent legislation or approve still further extensions. The programs include highway, transit and airports. Much of the construction industry’s focus is on highways and transit, whose authorization, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users, is one of the bills lapsing on Sept. 30. The House passed a three-month extension on Sept. 23. In the Senate, Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and the
Jonathan B. Jarvis, who has spent 33 years at the National Park Service, has been approved as the new NPS director. Jarvis, whom the Senate confirmed on Sept. 24, has led the NPS Pacific West region for the last seven years. The park service’s 2009 construction appropriations were $233 million, excluding emergency funding. NPS also has $750 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for repairs and upgrades.
Comments on a proposed rule that would encourage use of project labor agreements on large federal construction projects included passionate pleas from unions in favor of the proposal and from open-shop interests against it. The proposal would implement a Feb. 6 executive order. The laborers’ union says PLAs help deliver projects on time and on budget and guarantee uninterrupted access to skilled labor. Strong opposition came from 906 comments filed by Associated Builders and Contractors and its member companies. ABC has released a study claiming no labor disruptions or major delays occurred on non-PLA federal projects begun in the Bush
Demand far exceeds supply for the Dept. of Transportation’ $1.5 billion in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grants. DOT reported on Sept. 25 that its preliminary tally shows it received 1,381 applications for the grants from all 50 states and other jurisdictions. Those requests seek a stunning total of $56.9 billion. The grant program, established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is aimed at big-impact projects. DOT says 771 of the TIGER applications are for highway projects, requesting a total of $32.2 billion. Transit ranks second, with 220 applications totaling $10.7 billion. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has
A White House meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Obama on Sept. 16 did not produce an agreement to resolve Canada’s concerns over the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s “Buy American” provisions. But Obama said the two sides are trying to find ways to ease the problem. Canada has made a proposal that it hopes will lead to a deal, and the U.S. is evaluating it. Canada contends that its manufacturers have been harmed by ARRA’s restrictions on non-U.S-made steel and manufactured products in projects financed by the stimulus package. A particular focus is projects administered by
The National Transportation Safety Board’s Oct. 8 release of documents related to its FIU bridge collapse investigation raises questions but provides no definitive conclusions about why the partially built structure suddenly crashed to the ground on March 15, 2018, killing six.