Nonbuilding Construction

Nonbuilding construction in July dropped 9 percent to $146.9 billion (annual rate). The decline came as the result of diminished activity for most of the public works categories, which fell 13 percent as a group.

Highway and bridge construction retreated 19 percent in July, making it three out of the past four months that weaker activity has been reported, which follows the surprisingly strong pace in early 2015. “The uncertainty arising from the expiring extension of the surface transportation legislation on July 31, along with the depleted Highway Trust Fund, likely played some role in July’s pullback for highway and bridge construction,” Murray stated.

Despite the decline, there were several large highway and bridge projects entered as July construction starts, including the $429 million Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway in Portsmouth, Ohio, the $264 million Belt Shore Parkway Mill Basin Bridge replacement in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the $187 million Interstate 85 widening and reconstruction in North Carolina.

The environmental public works categories in July all reported a diminished volume of construction starts, as follows – river/harbor development, down 20 percent; water supply construction, down 23 percent; and sewer construction, down 27 percent. The “miscellaneous public works” category (which includes such diverse project types as site work, pipelines, and mass transit), ran counter in July with a 29 percent gain.

Large miscellaneous public works projects that reached the construction start stage in July included the $700 million expansion of the Creole Trail natural gas pipeline in Louisiana, a $495 million oil pipeline replacement in Illinois and Indiana, and a $195 million Northeast Rail Corridor project in Connecticut. The electric utility and gas plant category in July increased 9 percent, due to the start of several large power plant projects – an $850 million natural gas-fired power plant in Maryland, a $420 million wind farm in Maine, a $337 million wind farm in Texas, and a $191 million solar power facility in Colorado.

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