The U.S. is on the cusp of losing more than $10 trillion in its Gross Domestic Product in the next two decades if steps aren’t taken to address the country’s infrastructure challenges.
According to a new report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers, a lack of a comprehensive approach to infrastructure building and upgrading will also, in the next two decades, lead to the loss of more than 3 million U.S. jobs.
Those are two of the findings in the group’s just-released Failure to Act: Economic Impacts of Status Quo Investment Across Infrastructure System, which despite such gloomy predictions, is heavy in the area of solutions.
The reports notes that an investment of nearly $17 billion a year in the nation’s electricity infrastructure over the next several decades could protect up to 540,000 jobs, while a similar commitment to water and wastewater infrastructure will prevent some $250 billion in business costs.
“When we fail to invest in our infrastructure, we pay the price,” the ASCE report contends. “Poor roads and airports mean travel times increase. An aging electric grid and inadequate water distribution makes utilities unreliable.”
The reports notes that “infrastructure deterioration is progressive, and the economic effects will dramatically escalate over time from a business as usual approach.”
Even so, “the good news is that much of the economic decline from worsening infrastructure, particularly those forecast from 2030 to 2039, can be prevented with thoughtful investment programs that address documented deficiencies.”
The Biden Administration has announced plans to present to Congress a plan that the President has said will make “historic investments in infrastructure, along with manufacturing, research and development and clear energy.”
That plan is expected to be unveiled in February.
By Garry Boulard
The continuing presence of the Covid-19 pandemic is being seen as one of the reasons why a major developer has pulled out of the much-anticipated repurposing of a 64-acre former college campus in midtown Santa Fe.
Dallas-based KDC/Cienda Partners, the master developer earlier selected by the City of Santa Fe for the much-publicized redevelopment project, additionally mentioned several other reasons for its exit.
In a letter to Santa Fe officials, the company noted that the “complications and uncertainty caused by Covid and government-ordered shutdowns have created greater risk and cost to this development that neither party could have anticipated.”
Ever since the Santa Fe University of Art and Design closed its doors in 2009 due to financial issues, city officials have been involved in an intensive public input process seeking ideas for what to do with the tree-lined site, which is populated by more than two dozen buildings.
The public input process regarding the property saw hundreds of residents participating in a series of sessions discussing what a repurposing would ultimately look like.
Santa Fe subsequently entered into a development agreement with KDC/Cienda last spring, generally proposing a mixed-use future for the campus, with the creation of commercial, office, and retail space, as well as new affordable housing.
Now, in the wake of KDC/Cienda’s withdrawal, Santa Fe officials say they still plan to move forward with the project, particularly because the city is currently saddled with an annual debt service on the land amounting to just under $2 million.
One of the unanticipated challenges of the project, according to KDC/Cienda, turned out to be the condition of some of the buildings on the site.
“Existing and probable other contamination will add cost to the demolition of existing buildings, the re-use of the buildings to be renovated, and infrastructure development,” the KDC/Ciendalatter said.
A Santa Fe governing session scheduled for January 27 will discuss, among other things, a mutual termination of the original development agreement with KDC/Cienda.
By Garry Boulard
The Denver City Council is expected to soon vote on a rezoning request for the construction of an 8-story car vending machine.
The project belongs to the Tempe-based Carvana Company, a growing used-car retailer, who wants to build a new facility on a 1.5-acre site at 4700 E. Evans Avenue.
The Carvana concept is both simple and revolutionary in the used car industry: a service allowing customers to purchase their vehicles of choice online, before retrieving them via an automated vehicle delivery system.
There are currently two dozen such Carvana facilities nationally, all multi-level, and housing pre-purchased vehicles waiting to be picked up by their new owners.
Launched in 2013, the company is thought to be the largest such car dealership of its kind in the country.
Measuring anywhere from roughly 175,000 square feet to more than 200,000 square feet, Carvana locations have seen an increase in the number of cars they handle, from just over 94,000 in 2018 to nearly 180,000 last year.
The new Denver location will reach a height of 75 feet, with the rezoning request taking the site from its current Industrial Mixed-Use to a proposed Suburban Mixed-Use.
The city’s Community Planning and Development department has recommended the rezoning request, which could be taken up by the city council next month.
If the project secures approval, work on the new Carvana outlet could begin later this year, with a rough late 2022 completion date.
By Garry Boulard
President Biden has ordered a 60-day review of all current contracts pertaining to the construction of the controversial border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
In one of his first executive orders, Biden announced that he would allow for “no more American taxpayer dollars to be diverted to construction” of that wall.
The President also said that he was directing what he called a “careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construction of a southern border wall.”
That review is expected to disclose which contracts as part of the massive $10 billion project can be done away with, and which will be renegotiated.
Of particularly interest is what will happen to the nearly $6 billion moved from the Defense and Treasury departments under the Trump administration for the wall project.
Altogether, under Trump some 450 miles of wall had been constructed, the majority of it replacement structures. New portions were made up of 30-foot tall steel bollards filled with concrete.
In his order, Biden called upon the Defense Department and Homeland Security to “develop a plan for the redirection of funds” related to the wall construction, “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.”
The order prohibits contractors from doing any further work on the wall, excluding what is “necessary to safely prepare each site for a suspension of work.”
While reports indicate that contractors are entitled to settlement payments for all money they have spent on materials and labor through the Army Corps of Engineers, it is uncertain whether new sections of the wall will eventually be demolished or left intact.
By Garry Boulard
Plans are underway for the construction of a new one-story building that will belong to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and will house both lab and lab support space.
The 12,500 square foot building at the NMDA site on the main campus of New Mexico State University will also house an open office area as well as building support space.
An additional feature of the project includes the alteration of just under 3,200 square feet of existing space currently used by the NMDA’s marketing department, to be converted to new lab space.
The current NMDA building was completed in 1975 at a cost of $1.5 million, and was designed by the Hobbs-based W.T. Harris and Associates Architects. The structure is located at 3190 S. Espina Street on the east side of the campus.
With a decades-long relationship with the NMSU, the Department of Agriculture on the school’s campus is tasked with food protection studies, as well as marketing and economic development.
The current Department building additionally features a chemistry lab, metrology lab, petroleum lab, and seed lab, among other facilities.
By Garry Boulard
The next important step has been taken in the development and building of a new industrial park in metropolitan Phoenix.
CRB, handling development projects for the Clayco company of Chicago, has finalized the purchase of 260 acres for the creation of an industrial park near Loop 303 in Glendale.
The project is seeing CRB in a partnership with Bird Dog Industrial, an entrepreneurial real estate investment firm based in Phoenix specializing in the acquisition and development of industrial properties.
Last fall Bird Dog announced the launching of the Power 202 Business Park in Mesa, a 19-acre industrial park seeing the construction of office, warehouse and light industrial structures.
The new Glendale project, to go up at the intersection of Reems Road and Northern Avenue, is called the Cubes at Glendale and will include 1.1 million square feet of speculative warehouse space.
The buildings will feature 40-foot clear heights, well over 200 dock doors, and 50 foot by 56 foot column spacing.
In a statement, Mark Sonnenberg, founder of Bird Dog Industrial, said the Cubes at Glendale is being developed “with multiple opportunities for speculative development, build-to-suits, and shovel ready lot sales.”
Ultimately, the Cubes at Glendale site is expected to measure 336 acres, with a total building footprint of 5.5 million square feet.
By Garry Boulard
In a move designed to provide suggested guidelines for the future development of hyperloop projects nationally, the Department of Transportation has issued a standards guidance designed to spur dialogue.
The Hyperloops Standards Desk Review provides an overview of existing federal standards and regulations, providing a “framework for the Department’s approach toward non-traditional and emerging technologies.”
The guidelines are intended to shed light on how the Department’s regulatory structure can “support or hinder transportation innovation,” taking a look at standards already in existence, where new standards may be adopted, and where “voluntary or technical standards or regulations may be needed.”
A mode of transportation capable of reaching speeds of 900 miles per hour, meaning that a person could travel from Albuquerque to Denver in about an hour, proposed hyperloop projects are being looked in as efficient ways to reduce highway traffic through the use of floating pods attached to low-pressure tubes in either above or below-ground networks.
Such proposed projects are all big, with needed private and public investments in the billions of dollars, and anticipated phased construction taking years to complete.
Hyperloop projects have been proposed and studied for possible routes in New York, Illinois, Colorado, and California.
The hyperloop standards review is a product of the Transportation Department’s Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology Council which was established 2 years ago with the goal of resolving “jurisdictional and regulatory gaps that may impede the development of new technologies.”
By Garry Boulard
Depending upon the approval of the voters, Albuquerque could soon be taking on a series of infrastructure and public improvement projects with a dollar worth of around $140 million.
Mayor Tim Keller has proposed an array of infrastructure initiatives, all of which will be part of a big general obligation bond package in the November 2021 city elections.
The largest segment of the proposal at $28.4 million would, among other projects, fund construction of a new city Fire Station 12, to go up in the growing southeast International District. That project comes with a $4 million price tag.
The police and fire projects will also include $9 million for renovating and expanding the Southeast Area Command facility at 800 Louisiana Boulevard, as well as $7 million for a new Public Safety Center, on the southeast side of the city.
The second largest bond category, at $25 million, will go for street improvement projects across the city. That category includes $4.8 million for storm drainage improvements; $3 million for the expansion of McMahon Boulevard on the northwest side of the city; and $2.5 million for overall median and interstate improvement projects.
Exactly $16.4 million will target parks and recreation projects, which includes $2.2 million for the construction of an indoor sports complex; and a combined $2.2 million for both golf course improvements as well as regional park facilities development and renovation projects.
Smaller projects include $6 million for a multigenerational center in the city’s Cibola Loop neighborhood; and $500,000 for remodeling and repair work to the historic downtown KiMo Theater.
In a statement, Mayor Keller said the proposed funded projects were vital in a “post-Covid Albuquerque,” a place where “hard-working families can get ahead and kids can grow up safely and have opportunities right here at home.”
In commenting upon an additional $15 million that will go for housing projects, the Mayor added: “With the funding we included here, plus what we’ve added in the last year, there is more than $10 million in the pipeline for affordable housing, with more options for families than ever, at a time when they are needed more than ever.”
By Garry Boulard
Colorado and New Mexico are among the states asking for a review of how the Redstone Army Air Field near Huntsville, Alabama came to be chosen as the permanent location for the big Space Command Headquarters.
For months, officials in those two states, as well as in Florida, Nebraska, and Texas, have lobbied to secure the headquarters designation, with Colorado long regarded as the frontrunner due to the fact that the Command’s headquarters have been established on a temporary basis at the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
Looking at the existing infrastructure already in place for the Space Command in Colorado Springs, the Washington Examiner recently concluded: “Politicians from other states may say otherwise, but the evidence clearly indicates that the Space Command should stay where it is.”
According to sources, the Air Force, some weeks ago, had actually decided in favor of Peterson and informed President Trump of that choice, before the White House announced Redstone as the new home for the Command.
In a statement, New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Lujan has called for a Congressional investigation looking into the selection process. “I intend to bring this issue up with the incoming administration,” Lujan, who was hoping to see the headquarters set up at the Kirtland Air Force Base, commented.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis has additionally called for a look into the selection process, contending that if the Redstone decision stands it will “cost American taxpayers potentially billions of dollars and would be fiscally irresponsible.”
Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn has described the decision as “horrendous,” sending a letter to President Biden asking him to use his office “to reverse this foolish and hastily made decision.”
The Space Command, the newest branch of the armed services, is designed as a unified combat command overseeing all of the country’s military operations in space.
By Garry Boulard
A shortage of some essential building materials is expected to plague the nation’s construction industry in the immediate months ahead, according to a new report issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
As of the end of 2020, more than 70% of surveyed builders were reporting difficulties securing at least one, if not several, materials, with lumber by far presenting the greatest challenge.
The report is part of the Chamber’s quarterly Commercial Construction Index, which also lists electrical supplies among other hard-to-get materials.
According to the publication Capital Press, lumber shortages, meanwhile, have proven particularly acute in states of the West “after 2020’s devastating wildfires.”
The Chamber report also indicates that some 41% of respondents blame the material shortages on the Covid-19 outbreak, while others said that even if such shortages decrease this year, the likelihood is that the materials themselves will continue to cost more.
For months, contractors have said that a primary hurdle complicating the materials challenge has been ongoing shipping delays.
On issues not specifically related to materials, some 71% of respondents in the Chamber survey said they were experiencing difficulties meeting project schedules, with another 68% expecting such delays to continue well into the spring of this year.
Exactly 53% of respondents also said they regard both project delays and outright shutdowns as a major industry concern.
On the up side, noted Neil Bradley, Chamber of Commerce executive vice-president, “More than one in three contractors plan to hire more workers in the next six months, and most see sufficient new business in the coming year.”
By Garry Boulard
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