Large Companies Proceeding with Construction Projects Nationwide (VIDEO)

Construction growth produces smiles…

Concrete production to expand…

And a cost bump for those pesky orange barrels…

That and more on Construction News Tracker presented by Caterpillar.

Large companies are proceeding with announced construction projects nationwide, which is putting a smile on the faces of contractors. As an example,Mercedes-Benz will expand its already huge assembly complex near Tuscaloosa, Ala., with a 1.3-million-square-foot body shop. Project Gateway is being handled by general contractor BL Farbert/Gray, Salia and C.S. Beatty in a joint venture. When completed in 2017, the addition will bring the Benz complex to $5.8 billion and add 3,800 jobs to its workforce.

Meanwhile outside Cincinnati, Wayfair, a large online retailer, will put more than 20 acres under roof with a900,000-square-foot distribution center. The Logisticenter 275 is on land owned by the Airport Authority and under long-term lease. General contractor is Paul Hemmer, and when completed will be a major state of the art facility.

Sound economic fundamentals are behind the latest rosy cement consumption forecast from Portland Cement Association. Chief Economist Ed Sullivan predicts construction activity will grow 4.8% the balance of this year while cement consumption is forecast to grow 5% next year and 6.5% in 2017. Sullivan says he believes the three key sectors that make up the forecast — residential, nonresidential and commercial construction — will continue to expand.

There’s little action underway on Capitol Hill regarding highway funding extension. Authorization expires the end of October, yet the House Transportation Committee has not even planned a markup session. The inaction may be part of a wave of complacency after the Federal DOT told lawmakers it would have enough funds for highway projects in the bank until next summer. Construction is advocating for a six-year bill, and AGC is among those pressing for Congressional action.

They are everywhere, orange striped barrels that keep watch over construction sites nationwide. But imagine the shock when Michigan DOT officials discovered that prices are expected to rise 32% to 43%. It comes with a new barrel design that 18 states are interested in — one that carries an enhanced reflective sheet that makes barrels more visible in poor weather. When you own 10,000 of them, as Michigan does, the cost can escalate quickly, and a move to the new design could cost the DOT a whopping $500,000 a year more.

No, it’s not Spider Man, it’s spider van. And despite the unusual name these high tech vehicles are vitally important to our roadways.

Agencies ranging from local to state and federal have employed them to rate road surface conditions then devise maintenance or replacement plans. Equipped with a myriad of sensors, the vans collect pavement characteristics including roughness and ruts. In many cases the data collected by earlier scans in compared with new ones giving engineers solid information on how and why roads fail.

The spider van data has even been used in some locales to convince lawmakers to put more funds toward road repairs, or raise gas taxes. In fact, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard pressured legislators to do just that earlier this year using data and images collected by the system.

In closing, when the tide of life turns against you and the current upsets your boat, don’t waste tears on what might have been. Just lie back and float.

This is Construction News Tracker watching over the industry that makes the world a better place, presented by Caterpillar and produced by

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