A new mechanism for transporting cargo at the busy Ysleta-Zaragoza Port of Entry may see construction if all the numbers line up.
The City of El Paso has entered a memorandum of understanding with the City of Juarez to explore the possibility of building a shuttle that will move cargo in both directions across the border between the two cities.
The project has been in the talking stage for the better part of a decade and, according to officials, could take upwards of another decade to be built.
Although there are several entry points from and to Mexico in metro El Paso, the Ysleta-Zaragoza Port of Entry is being looked at because it already serves semi-truck traffic and may have the most space for any new construction.
The next step, allowing City of El Paso staff to study the feasibility of the project, will come after a binational signing ceremony is held to make the memorandum of understanding between the city and Juarez official.
The Ysleta-Zaragoza Port of Entry, at the Ysleta-Zaragoza International Bridge, was opened in 1938. Earlier this year the federal Department of Transportation approved up to $12 million in funding to for pedestrian improvements at the facility.
By Garry Boulard
The Association of American Railroads has come out against a move currently underway in the U.S. House to block a potential rail strike.
In a statement, Ian Jefferies, chief executive officer of the AAR, said, “Now is not the time for Congress to put its thumb on the scale and selectively add to labor contracts, including agreements already ratified by employees through a multi-year process.”
After protracted negotiations, the nation’s freight rail companies and railroad workers have failed to agree on a contract. In September, a tentative agreement called for giving workers a 24% raise over the next five years, among other features.
The Association of American Railroads characterized that agreement as historic, which includes an immediate $16,000 average payout in retroactive raises and bonuses.
To date, seven of the 12 unions representing the nation’s rail workers have voted to ratify the tentative agreement. Four have come out against it. If any single union of the 12 representing the nation’s rail workers comes out against an agreement and decides to go on strike, the other unions honor that union’s picket lines.
In recent days union leaders have noted that unless all the unions and the major rail freight carriers come to an agreement, a nationwide rail strike will begin on December 9.
Analysts have predicted that if that rail strike becomes reality, it could cost the national economy at least $2 billion per day. The strike could also impact water and power supplies.
For his part, President Biden has now called on Congress to pass legislation to prevent a strike, supporting in the process the September tentative agreement. Biden also warned that any attempts on the part of members of Congress to tinker with that agreement “would risk delay and a debilitating shutdown.”
“The agreement,” the President added, “was reached in good faith by both sides.”
A different take on the dispute was voiced by Florida Senator Marco Rubio who said, “Just because Congress has the authority to impose a heavy-handed solution does not mean we should.”
Rubio added that he would not vote for “any deal that does not have the support of the rail workers.”
By Garry Boulard
The fast-growing Costco Wholesale Corporation may be on the verge of building a large new store in Buckeye, Arizona.
The company, which is based in Issaquah, Washington and has around 850 locations worldwide, has purchased land at the southeast corner of Interstate 10 and Verrado Way.
The 22-acre site will be the home of a shopping center called Buckeye Commons, with Costco serving as the anchor tenant. The new Costco store, like many other Costco locations, may also include a pharmacy, bakery, gas station, and car wash.
Although an exact construction schedule for the store has not yet been released, it will be only the latest foray by the retail giant in the southern Arizona market. A new 150,000 square foot Costco store is scheduled to open this coming January in Queen Creek.
Costco stores range in size from 80,000 square feet to around 230,000 square feet, with the average store coming in at 146,000 square feet. In the last month, the company has opened new outlets in California, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Utah.
By Garry Boulard
Plans are in the talking stage for the construction of a 300,000 square foot hydrogen kit manufacturing plant that will go up on a 50-acre site near the Albuquerque International Sunport.
The company Universal Hydrogen, which is based in Hawthorne, California, is developing hydrogen conversion kits and fuel storage solutions for commercial flights.
According to the website greencongress.com, Universal Hydrogen’s business model centers on “stitching together the end-to-end hydrogen chain for aviation, both for hydrogen fuel and hydrogen-powered airplanes.”
Last month American Airlines announced it was investing in the company, which was founded in 2020, as part of the airline’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.
In a move to get the new facility built in Albuquerque, members of the city council are currently reviewing an incentives package worth around $2 million. That figure would be in addition to the roughly $10 million in Local Economic Development Act funding earlier approved by the New Mexico’s Economic Development Department.
It is expected that the Albuquerque City Council will hold a public hearing sometime next month on the $2 million package.
As earlier reported, the Universal Hydrogen facility will be built at the site of the north/south runway that was decommissioned by the airport in 2012.
By Garry Boulard
The Gross Domestic Product is expected to see a downturn by the end of the year, signaling the likelihood of a recession in early 2023, according to a Fannie Mae report.
The Fannie Mae Economic and Strategic Research Group says it is anticipating a decline in both corporate and residential investment heading into the new year, as well as less robust consumer spending.
At the same time, the group predicts that although the sale of single-family homes will decline next year, they are expected to increase in 2024 by more than 18%.
In fact, the group appears positively bullish on the subject of 2024, predicting an overall GDP growth rate of 2% for the entire year.
In a statement, Doug Duncan, senior vice president with Fannie Mae, remarked: “The economy continues to slide toward a mild recession, which we think will begin in the new year, without housing construction leading the slowdown.”
But Duncan added that “higher interest rates have triggered the typical decline in residential fixed asset investment that has historically led to either economic slowdowns or recessions.”
For all of that, the Fannie Mae economist said he believes ultimately the nation’s housing sector is well positioned enough to “help pull the economy out of what we expect to be a short recession.”
The group additionally notes that the “one major area pointing to continued economic strength is the labor market,” adding that some 261,000 jobs were added in October, contributing to a total of more than 4 million new jobs for the year.
The Economic and Strategic Research Group is tasked with studying current national economic data, as well as analyzing both historic and emerging trends.
By Garry Boulard
Members of the Scottsdale City Council have given their approval to a significantly large project that will see the building of both new apartments, as well as up to 36,000 square feet of commercial space.
The company Optima Incorporated, which is based in Scottsdale, wants to build half a dozen eight-story buildings that will house some 1,330 apartment and condominium units. Each building will also include a rooftop pool.
Those buildings will be concrete-framed, featuring landscaped facades designed to incorporate the shapes of the nearby McDowell Mountains.
As planned, the project will see the construction of apartments ranging in size from studios to three-bedroom units.
Slated to go up on a 21-acre site at the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and the Loop 101 freeway, what is being called the Optima McDowell Mountain Village will also include green space, a central courtyard, and a bicycle and pedestrian trail.
According to city documents, the project will additionally feature the “largest private residential rainwater harvesting project in the United States.” Rainwater will be stored in a concrete vault designed to hold up to 210,000 gallons of storm water.
Optima describes itself as a “design-driven real estate development firm rooted in the modernist tradition.” The company, with offices also in Glencoe, Illinois, has spearheaded the development of sleekly-designed mixed-use projects in both Arizona and Illinois.
By Garry Boulard
A public input meeting will be held this week in El Paso regarding a proposed massive $750 million project that could substantially change the contours and scope of Interstate 10 as it slices through the city.
What is popularly known as the “Reimagine I-10” project, as proposed by the Texas Department of Transportation, generally encompasses some 55 miles of highway in metro El Paso.
The downtown part of the project that could eventually lead to the demolition of more than two dozen commercial and residential structures spans nearly 6 miles.
The project, now set to be the focus of an environmental impact study, has been in the talking and planning stage for nearly four years. That study will come in the form of an environmental impact statement designed to document the need for the project, possible alternatives to it, and the overall impact on the environment.
How long the study will take is not known, although some published sources have hinted that work on the project could begin in 2027.
Transportation officials have said that a reconfiguration of I-10 in El Paso is needed in response to an urban traffic volume on the highway that has increased by 34% in the last decade and is projected to exceed 400,000 vehicles daily in the next two decades.
The public input meeting is set for Wednesday, November 30 at 4 p.m. in the Juarez Room of the Judson F. Williams Convention Center.
By Garry Boulard
More than 2,800 bridge repair and replacement projects have been launched across the country in recent months, according to a White House release marking the one-year anniversary of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
That legislation, signed into law by President Biden in November of last year, carried a $1.2 trillion price tag and was designed to address bridge, road, electric grid, and broadband infrastructure needs.
According to the White House, the bridge work under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration is seeing some $120 billion spent on projects for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
Last month, the Federal Highway Administration issued a statement saying that competitive grants under the Bridge Investment Program had thus far been sent to 23 states. In a statement, Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg said those grants “will be used to create a pipeline of future bridge construction projects.”
The bridge work represents the largest federal investment in such work since the original passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which was signed into law by President Eisenhower and launched the building of the nation’s Interstate Highway System.
Of the $120 billion coming out of Washington, Arizona has received around $2.1 billion for bridge and roadway work; while Colorado has been the recipient of some $1.7 billion in funds for the same work.
At the same time, up to $1.1 billion in funding has been announced for bridge and roadway work in New Mexico.
Texas, meanwhile, has been on the receiving end of around $10.8 billion in spending from Washington.
According to a report issued earlier this year by the Congressional Research Service, up to 44,000 bridges nationally are classified as being in poor condition. Of that total, around 80% are located in rural areas.
By Garry Boulard
Just two years after it revealed plans to put up an initial production plant in Phoenix, the big Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company says it wants to construct a nanometer chip manufacturing facility in the same city.
According to analysts, the new plant is evidence of TSMC’s desire to expand its advanced chip manufacturing profile in the U.S.
The announcement of the new factory was made by Morris Chang, TSMC’s founder and former chief executive officer, who told the news service Reuters that plans for the project are yet to be finalized.
Launched in 1987, TSMC, based in Hsinchu, Taiwan, is not only one of the largest companies in industry-rich Taiwan, but is the biggest independent semiconductor foundry in the world. The company currently manufactures around 90% of the chips used in most advanced technologies and enjoys annual revenues in excess of $35 billion.
TSMC declared its intention to build a $12 billion fabrication plant in Phoenix in the spring of 2020 with plans later announced to build up to half a dozen additional factories at the site. Work on the initial facility is expected to be completed in 2024.
According to the website Siliconangle, a new TSMC nanometer factory would leave the company in a “much better position to compete with Intel for customers that want their advanced chips to be manufactured domestically.”
By Garry Boulard
Plans to build a massive $221 million New Mexico government executive office building should be revised to take in the impact of telework.
That’s the conclusion of a report recently completed by the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee looking at the cost of building new government structures, as well as maintaining existing ones.
The report, Program Evaluation: State Facilities and Space Utilization, notes that the State of New Mexico has been planning for more than a decade to build an executive office building that would house several agencies currently located in a variety of office buildings in other parts of the city.
In 2009, members of the New Mexico State Legislature voted to approved authorizing the New Mexico Finance Authority to issue up to $115 million in bonds for the project. During the most recent legislative session earlier this year, lawmakers appropriated $70 million from the state’s general fund, along with another $15 million in severance tax bonds, for the project.
But, according to the Legislative Finance Committee report, four of the seven state agencies expected to eventually move into the new executive office building have high rates of employees.
Those agencies are the State Auditor’s office, the Office of the State Treasurer, the Public Regulation Commission, and the Public Education Department.
Each agency, at the time the report was being put together late this summer, had well over 50% of its staff teleworking, and in some cases upwards of nearly 80%, prompting the report to question the need for building new office space for those agencies.
The report additionally notes that the planned three-story executive office building project could cost upwards of $221.6 million, with anticipated annual cost escalations coming in at around $27 million.
Noting a proposed $46 million parking structure that will be a part of the project, the report also asserts that current state government parking space has a utilization rate of around 41%. For that reason, the report recommends construction of a parking structure with no more than 723 parking spaces.
Ultimately, says the report, the state should “revise plans and cost estimates for the executive office building with recent construction cost calculations and expected occupant telework practices.”
The long-anticipated executive office building project has been partially delayed as the state awaits a decision from the Santa Fe Historic Districts Review Board regarding the demolition of four smaller office buildings dating to the early 1930s at the site of the proposed project.
By Garry Boulard
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