Nonbuilding construction, at $198.5 billion (annual rate), dropped 22 percent in March. A steep plunge for the electric utility and gas plant category, down 73 percent, was entirely responsible for the latest month’s nonbuilding decline.
In February, the electric utility and gas plant category had included the $8.4 billion Sempra LNG export terminal in Louisiana and the $1.2 billion Stateline Solar Farm in California. While there were several large electric utility and gas plant projects entered as March starts, such as a $500 million upgrade to a gas-fired power plant in Texas, they were considerably smaller in scale than the large projects entered as February starts.
By contrast, the public works categories showed across-the-board gains in March. Highway and bridge construction surged 30 percent, led by the start of the $2.3 billion I-4 upgrade in central Florida. For the first three months of 2015, the top five states ranked by the dollar amount of new highway and bridge construction were – Florida, Texas, New York, California, and Illinois.
The miscellaneous public works category, which includes such diverse project types as site work and pipelines, soared 86 percent in March, led by $400 million related to site work at the Sasol ethylene cracker and derivatives complex in Louisiana and a $300 million petroleum pipeline in Texas. For the environmental categories, the March increases were as follows – river/harbor development, up 33 percent; water supply systems, up 16 percent; and sewer systems, up 1 percent.