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
Plans are once again underway for the construction of a new marijuana dispensary facility in Phoenix.
The project will belong to the Tempe-based Harvest Health and Recreation company, and will go up at the northwest intersection of Tatum and Shea boulevards near a border between Phoenix and the town of Paradise Valley.
As envisioned, the facility will measure around 15,000 square feet, with roughly a third of that space taken up by the marijuana company and the rest leased out to other tenants.
The company had originally applied for a rezoning application in July, but withdrew from the process the following month.
With that process now relaunched, the project will once again require a final vote of approval from the Phoenix City Council.
The dispensary project comes on the heels of an Arizona ballot question in November which saw voters pass what is called the Smart and Safe Arizona Act.
That initiative, which secured 60% of the vote, legalizes the possession and use of marijuana for all persons over the age of 21.
In a column for the Arizona Capital Times, William Troutt, medical education director for Harvest Health, noted that while the recreational use of marijuana will obviously increase in the state due to passage of the initiative, the company will continue to focus on its medical aspects.
Harvest Health currently operates 38 locations across the country, with 15 up and running in Arizona.
The company’s Arizona outlets range in size from a 9,200 square foot indoor cultivation facility in El Mirage, to a 70,000 square foot greenhouse in the city of Wilcox.
By Garry Boulard
A project that will see the building of a regional cancer treatment center in Grand Junction has taken a step in the right direction with the support of a significant private donation.
Community Hospital officials have long wanted to build a facility whose services would focus entirely on cancer treatment and care.
Now that effort has received a $1 million donation from James Pulsipher, regional manager of the Grand Junction-based Fidelity Mortgage, which has offices throughout the West.
That donation more specifically went to the Community Hospital Foundation, which is spearheading the cancer treatment facility construction project.
That donation is seen as an impressive launching point for a capital campaign designed to raise as much as $5 million for the both building of the new facility as well as purchase of the expensive medical equipment that will go inside it.
As planned, the new $60 million facility will go up on the Community Hospital’s main campus on the west side of Grand Junction at 2351 G Road.
That campus in 2016 saw the completion of a new four-story 140,000 square foot main hospital facility.
Work is now expected to launch this fall on what will be called the James Pulsipher Regional Cancer Center, with a rough completion date of sometime in 2023.
A long-standing presence in western Colorado, the Community Hospital was originally established in the summer of 1946 with space for a dozen beds.
By Garry Boulard
Congress has now given its final approval to the sweeping Water Resources Development Act, legislation that authorizes the construction of some 46 pending Army Corps of Engineers projects nationally.
The bill allows for the appropriation of more than $10 billion in funding through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Balance, and additionally authorizes nearly 30 project feasibility studies.
The authors of the legislation noted that it also essentially unlocks construction funds for any number of inland waterway construction projects.
Besides providing funding to port and harbor projects, the legislation also makes it possible to undertake ecosystem restoration and flood mitigation projects in both urban and rural communities.
In addition, the legislation allows access to some $500 million in funding from the Maintenance Trust Fund for fiscal year 2021 specifically designed to tackle a growing backlog of navigation maintenance work in the nation’s ports and harbors.
In commenting upon the passage of the legislation in the House, Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the bill will “build more resilient communities.”
DeFazio also noted that the legislation will help ensure that the Corps of Engineers “carries out projects in an economically and environmentally responsible manner, keeping equity in mind.”
The legislation was ultimately approved, and signed into law by President Trump, as part of the larger $900 coronavirus relief bill.
By Garry Boulard
Just under $34 million in federal funding has now been secured for the construction of a long-planned, high-tech facility on the Arizona base of Fort Huachuca, located some 15 miles to the north of the Mexican border.
That money is coming through the recently approved National Defense Authorization Act, which is providing up to $740 billion in funding for a wide variety of military base construction and infrastructure projects nationally.
The Fort Huachuca project will see the construction of a Defense Information Systems Agency Laboratory Building.
By design, the new structure will put all in one place a series of Joint Interoperability Test Command operations that have recently been housed in a series of temporary trailers.
The new facility will serve as a kind of command center, coordinating global testing capabilities, while combining the services of the Department of Defense and private industry in the gathering of intelligence, among other tasks.
Classified as a combat support agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency is headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Last year the city of Sierra Vista received just over $1.4 million from the Department of Defense to build an emergency medical services substation to support military families living at Fort Huachuca.
A schedule for when work on the systems agency laboratory building will begin has not yet been announced.
By Garry Boulard
Officials in Dona Ana County are seeking around $4.2 million in state funding in order to design and build a diversion channel just to the north of U.S. Highway 70.
The project has already received some $1 million in capital outlay funds previously approved by the New Mexico State Legislature to fund property acquisition, as well as both archaeological and environmental studies.
The Brahmin Diversion Channel project is located four miles to the north of Highway 70 and its intersection with Holman Road.
This latest capital outlay request for the diversion channel comes as the New Mexico State Legislature begins its two-month 2021 session on January 19.
Dona Ana is also seeking $2.5 million in capital outlay funding for the design and construction of a series of general flood control projects in the county, which will also include the building of detention ponds, drainage channels, and new culvert pipe replacements.
An additional Dona Ana project, if funded in Santa Fe, will see the long-planned construction of the Industrial Road Overpass, set to be built over Union Pacific Railroad tracks at the Santa Teresa Industrial Park.
Late last year that project received around $1.3 million in grant support through the Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Program.
The county is requesting $9.6 million from the state legislature to plan, design, and build Industrial Road overpass.
By Garry Boulard
While new home construction, along with new homes sales, have been one of the bright spots in the national economy during the last year, continued growth may be hampered by rising prices.
Those prices, according to a study issued by the National Association of Home Builders, reflect many market trends, but in particular the rising cost of construction due to a lack of immediate building materials.
Notes Robert Dietz, chief economist with NAHB, just lumber prices alone have seen a 60% increase since November, “adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home.”
Despite all that, asserts Dietz, “the overall macroeconomic outlook is expected to improve this year,” predicting an increase in the Gross Domestic Product as well as a lowering of the nation’s unemployment rate.
But, adds Dietz, “these forecasted improvements are dependent on the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.”
The economist admits that his generally positive forecast for the upcoming months, “assumes mass deployment of the vaccine between March and September, which should allow for more normalization of the overall economy and continued strength for housing demand.”
The NAHB report comes as home builder confidence has soared, even throughout the most dormant months of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, with single family construction in second-home communities up by a significant 24% on a yearly basis.
Even so, new home sales have continued to outpace actual new home construction.
“While strong demand suggests continued gains for home construction in 2021,” adds Dietz, “affordability declines and supply-side limitations will generate lower housing growth rates than those recorded last year.”
By Garry Boulard
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