Engineering


Industry shed 3,000 jobs vs. Nov. but gained 102,000 since Dec. 2015.

As colder weather arrived in much of the U.S., construction’s December unemployment rate rose to 7.4% from November’s 5.7% but still was an improvement over the year-earlier 7.5%, the Labor Dept. has reported.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest monthly employment report, released on Jan. 6, also showed that construction lost 3,000 jobs in December, compared with November, but gained 102,000 year over year.

Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors of America chief economist, said in a statement that the BLS report sends “mixed signals” about the industry. He added, “Although a dip in employment might normally be a sign of declining demand, in this case the industry is raising wages and taking other steps to attract and retain workers.”

Simonson noted that average hourly earnings were up 3% in the past year, to $28.42 per hour, and recently have been increasing at their fastest annual rate since 2009. He said that trend signals that contractors want to add workers.

Anirban Basu, Associated Builders and Contractors chief economist, said in a statement that construction firms are having trouble finding qualified workers. “Accordingly,” Basu said, “many construction firms are required to do more with fewer people, which should eventually show up in construction productivity data that reflect the amount of output generated by the average worker on a per-hour-worked basis.

The BLS unemployment rates aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations. The volume of construction work tends to decline, and the industry’s jobless rate climbs, as temperatures fall in large parts of the country.

The BLS report’s monthly jobs figures, which are seasonally adjusted, show that residential specialty trade contractors added 11,700 positions, but those gains were outweighed by losses in all other industry segments.

Heavy-civil engineering construction posted the largest decline, shedding 8,900 jobs.

Nonresidential specialty trades and buildings construction each saw their workforce shrink by 3,200 positions.

Basu said, “The significant number of jobs lost in the heavy and civil engineering segment indicates that U.S. spending on infrastructure remains low.” He added, “For  much of the year, the level of spending in publicly financed segment was stuck in reverse, and [the BLS] data indicate that increased investment in the shared built environment is much needed.”

BLS also reported that the overall U.S. unemployment rate edged up to 4.7% from November’s 4.6%, despite a gain of 156,000 jobs during the month.

Story updated 1:52 pm 1/6/17 with industry economists’ comments.

Despite frequent news accounts of Chinese cities choking on fossil-fueled air pollution the country’s renewable energy sector continues to progress. China leads the world in photovoltaic capacity, achieving 43 gigawatts in 2016. It overtook Germany for the top spot in 2015 after increasing the solar industry’s capacity at the rate of 40% per year for over a decade.

China is now racing to become the world’s biggest carbon trading market. It introduced carbon trading as a pilot project last year when 120 million tons of carbon dioxide worth 3.2 billion yuan ($463 million) had already been traded. The project will be extended to the entire country this year, and this will make China the world’s biggest market, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate change affairs, said.

China’s success has attracted Apple Inc., which recently bought a 30% stake in four wind power projects owned by Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co., China’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, as part of its efforts to minimize its carbon footprint.

“This is an image booster for both companies,” says Zhou Yiyi, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance based in Shanghai. “It will indirectly offset Apple’s carbon footprint linked to manufacturing in China through offsite power generation, as well as benefit Goldwind’s exports.”

Solar panel manufacturers from China have built up strong presence in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia markets. Their strategy involves making large-scale investment in foreign solar farms, using their own products.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising all the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf except Iraq, offers a lucrative opportunity. GCC members in aggregate are expected to increase installed solar capacity 50-fold between 2015 and 2025. Saudi Arabia alone has announced plans for an additional 9.5 GW of renewable energy by 2030. Outside the GCC, India is targeting 175 GW by 2022, including 100 GW of solar. Li Dan, Vice Executive Secretary-General, Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, said these countries are gradually shedding their preference for western suppliers.

“Looking ahead, decisions will be based on purely commercial factors. Chinese companies can provide the quality, the capacity, and the commercial viability to put renewables at the center of the energy mix,” she said.

Inside China

The renewable sector accounts for one fourth of the total electricity production in China. Hydroelectricity took the lead contributing 20% to the total electricity generation in 2015, the last year for which detailed figures are available.

Wind farms contributed 3.3%, solar farms 0.7% and 0.9% came from biomass power plants. The government has set a target of raising non-hydro renewable power generation from five percent now to nine percent by 2020. The government wants companies to install 110 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity by 2020. China invested $100 billion on renewable energy in 2016, and plans to intensify its investments year on year.

“During the period of the 13th Five-Year Plan (from the present to 2016-2020), we assume a coordinated development of the power grid on regional and provincial levels to be able to integrate on the order of 300-350 GW of wind power and 200-220 GW of solar power,” China National Renewable Energy Centre said in its report, “China Renewable Energy Outlook 2016.”

By 2030, the China grid would basically be built out, effectively integrating all produced renewable power generation as an energy-friendly internet-like smart grid, according to the report.

Despite recent progress, there is grave dissatisfaction within China about the tardy growth in solar and wind power, which have failed to contribute enough.

These industries depend heavily on a government backed pricing mechanism, which will be phased out gradually starting with a 25% reduction in subsidies this year. Wind and solar together will lose $864 million in 2017, with deeper reductions scheduled in the following years.

Analysts cite the gradual withdrawal in subsidies as the main reason driving Chinese solar and wind power companies abroad.  Inadequate linkage with the state grid and countrywide power transmission networks is seen as one of the hurdles.

Nearly 34 billion kilowatt-hours of wind power produced in 2015 were idled for want of takers. Similarly, solar farms could not sell 5 billion kwh of generation in 2015, the government’s energy department said.

One of the major solar panel makers, ReneSola Ltd., recently unveiled an ambitious program to produce 335MW of electricity by building rooftop solar plants in major industrial units. The idea is to encourage them to meet a part of their electricity needs from the rooftop plants.  The idea is to sell power directly to end users instead of going through the state grid.

The Trump effect

The renewables business has been worried about whether U.S. President-elect Donald Trump would go ahead with his election promise to scuttle implementation of the Paris Climate Change agreement. If the U.S. follows this course, China would be under much less pressure to reduce its carbon emissions.  But Chinese officials say they will stick to their stated plans to move aggressively to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. “As we speculate about what the United States might do, I hope the international community understands that China’s position will not change,” Gou Haibo, deputy head in the Chinese delegation on climate change talks, said.

The Treasury Dept. has released a list of 40 proposed major U.S. transportation and water infrastructure projects—and two wide-ranging programs—that promise big returns on investment but face funding or other hurdles.

According to the report, released with little fanfare on Dec. 30, the 40 projects’ estimated capital costs total more than $330 billion, but would produce net economic benefits of $500 billion to $1.1 trillion.

The two programs—autonomous vehicles and “recapitalizing” the Interstate Highway System—would cost a combined $2.1 trillion but their benefits would be much higher, the report states.

The study was produced by a team led by AECOM and is part of the Obama administration’s Build America Investment Initiative. That program, launched in 2014, aims to spark more infrastructure investment and draw on the private sector.

The study focuses on projects that have “major economic significance, but whose completion has slowed or is in jeopardy.”

The future impact of the study, released near the end of the Obama presidency, is unclear. President-elect Donald J. Trump has pledged a $1-trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan that, according to a campaign white paper, would involve tax credits.

Brian Pallasch, American Society of Civil Engineers managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives, said via email that the Treasury report’s examples of projects that can have significant economic payoffs is “a message ASCE has been sharing for years, and we’re excited that the Treasury took on this research and quantified the benefits.”

The authors note that previous infrastructure “needs” reports include “projects of all sizes and types lumped together.” By contrast, they add, “This study aims to help re-focus the debate on projects with significant national economic benefits relative to their costs.”

The report found that “a lack of funds is by far the most common challenge to completing these projects,” observing that 39 projects face such shortfalls. ASCE’s Pallasch said, “By acknowledging these projects have major ROI and still are not getting funded, it shows the magnitude of challenges facing our infrastructure because of the investment gap.”

Increased costs have hampered 19 projects, and 20 are hindered by a lack of consensus among relevant public- and private-sector organizations.

Only nine face regulatory issues, such as lengthy reviews and permitting processes, the report says. As the numbers indicate, some projects face multiple hurdles.

The list includes 14 highway, 10 rail, nine water-resources and six port or waterway projects.

In terms of projects’ geographic mix, 17 are in the South, eight in the West, seven in the Midwest and three in the Northeast; five others are national in scope.

By far the most costly project, at an estimated $100.8 billion, is a passenger-rail improvement plan for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. The California high-speed rail program is next, at $58.8 billion.

Upgrades to Interstate-10, which crosses eight states from Florida to California, would cost $28.6 billion. Ranking fourth is the already-underway- but-still-incomplete Next Generation Air Traffic Control system, or NextGen, at an estimated $25.3 billion.

The fifth-largest project is the Minnesota-to-Texas I-35 Trade Corridor, at $15.6 billion.

The report’s two broad—and extremely expensive—programs are: technology to accommodate autonomous vehicles, pegged at $1.3 trillion in capital costs; and recapitalizing the Interstate system, including additional capacity, estimated at $790 billion.

 Despite the daunting price tags, the report says the programs would produce substantial bangs for those megabucks: it estimates the autonomous vehicle plan’s benefits at seven to 10 times its costs; the Interstate plan’s benefit-cost ratio would be between four and seven to one.

The Treasury report isn’t all-inclusive: it omits airport and toll-road projects because, it says, “they do not face the same set of funding and financing hurdles that many other infrastructure projects face.

The study also excludes water and wastewater-treatment projects, “because they are driven by regulations and compliance timetables, not explicit benefit-cost economics.”

Description

Proceedings of the10th Asia Pacific Transportation Development Conference, held in Beijing, China, May 25-27, 2014. Sponsored by International Chinese Transportation Professionals Association, Beijing University of Technology, and Transportation & Development Institute of ASCE.

Challenges and Advances in Sustainable Transportation Systems contains 86 peer-reviewed papers addressing the challenges facing transportation engineers in the design, construction, maintenance, and management of transportation facilities.

Topics include

  • planning and design of sustainable public transport
  • asphalt mixtures in highway construction
  • rail and subway planning and design
  • intelligent transportation systems
  • tunnel design and construction
  • geotechnical design considerations
  • bridge design, durability, monitoring, and evaluation

This proceedings will be of interest to academics, practitioners, planners, and managers working in the field of transportation engineering.

Click here to order book on the ASCE web site.

Join RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts for a conversation about how to increase reuse and recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) materials. RecyclingWorks would like to hear from architects, contractors, and other building professionals to help develop best management practices for diverting this waste from disposal.

We invite you to attend a meeting of the Boston Society of Architect’s Committee on the Environment on this subject. Topics for discussion include:
– Reuse: Connecting with salvage outlets to capture reusable materials.
– Source Separation: What materials make sense to separate on-site and at what scale of project?
– C&D Processing: Best practices for capturing high-value materials at comingled facilities

Please attend to share your experience with these or other issues related to diverting construction and demolition materials from disposal.
This meeting is open to both members of the Boston Society of Architects as well as others involved in the construction industry (contractors, C&D haulers and processors, salvage outlets, building officials, etc.)

About our speaker:
This conversation about construction and demolition waste will be facilitated by Emily Fabel, Green Business Program Lead for the Center for EcoTechnology. Emily administers two waste reduction programs funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection: RecyclingWorks in MA (for businesses and institutions) and THE GREEN TEAM (for K-12 schools). Emily has a Masters of Architecture from the University of Minnesota and entered the waste management field through hauling trash, food waste, and recyclables by bicycle for Pedal People Cooperative in Northampton.

For those who qualify, 1.5 LU/HSWs are available.

To learn more about the Committee on the Environment, visit architects.org/committees/committee-environment-cote.

Click Register to attend.

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By Tom Ichniowski, Pam Hunter McFarland and Debra K. Rubin, with Jim Parsons, JT Long, Mary B. Powers and Erin Richey

Washington and the nation saw red—more than expected—across the electoral map with Republican Donald Trump’s Nov. 8 squeaker win of the presidency over Democrat Hillary Clinton in a tight race to the end, and with the GOP managing to keep control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

As the construction industry digests Trump’s surprising victory, they expect the new administration’s regulatory policy to tilt strongly toward business interests’ point of view. In particualr, industry officials foresee a pullback on environmental and workplace-related rules.

Another construction industry focus will be Trump’s proposals for a sizable increase in infrastructure investment. Just how large an increase—and the type of projects the plan will include—are unclear, however.

During the campaign, Trump called for a $1-trillion, 10-year infrastructure plan in his first 100 days in office. But a post-election posting on his transition web page cites a $550-billion program. Robert Murray, Dodge Data & Analytics vice president for economic affairs, suggests that the lower figure may reflect a shortening of the the time period to five years, from 10. The Trump transition’s new statement also refers only to transportation infrastructure.

In his post-election speech early on Nov. 9 Trump cast a broader infrastructure net. He said, according to a CNN-provided text, “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

The prospect of boosted infrastructure investment in the new administration sent some E&C sector firm stocks higher on Nov. 9, according to the Seeking Alpha website—including Caterpillar, which rose 7.7%; Jacobs Engineering, up 9.8%; Fluor, rising 10.1%; and AECOM, which went up 12.6%.

In a Nov. 9 note, Andrew Wittmann, lead construction industry analyst for investment firm Robert W. Baird Inc., said he was “incrementally positive on E&C sector post-presidential election though not rushing in.” Wittmann was optimistic about oil-and-gas sector construction with “a potentially more-accommodating” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and little, if any, use of “development-restricting Executive orders.” But he cautioned that cross-border projects “could be potentially curtailed under a more protectionist Trump administration” and that a “broader reigning in” of environmental regulation could hurt certain industry niches. Reduced federal backing also could negatively impact alternative energy sector work, he said.

Steve Hall, American Council of Engineering Companies vice president for government affairs, notes that Trump and Clinton had infrastructure on their agendas. “It’s the thing that is the consensus item between both parties,” Hall says. “With tighter margins in Congress, this may be one of the few consensus issues that they can actually make progress on.”

Steve Sandherr, Associated General Contractors of America CEO, said via email that “we are eager to work with the executive and legislative branch to advance new infrastructure investments and identify and put in place sustainable, long-term and reliable ways to pay for them.”

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials would like to see the envisioned infrastructure proposal include a revenue “fix” for the income-challenged Highway Trust Fund, says Jim Tymon, chief operating officer. But Tymon said in a Nov. 9 press call, “The speed bumps you may encounter [from conservative lawmakers] are whether or not a package is offset or paid for.” He adds, “I think you’ll find a lot of bipartisan dance partners. per se, but finding a way to come up with a bipartisan offset or a bipartisan way to pay for it is going to be more of the challenge, I think.”

Says one contractor executive: Trump “says the right things, but will he follow through?”

Some see the possibility of tax-reform legislation as a vehicle for a Highway Trust Fund solution. The National Electrical Contractors Association also would like to see a comprehensive tax measure include other provisions, says Marco Giamberardino, executive director for government affairs. He says NECA members favor repealing the estate tax and also are seeking “parity” in the tax rates that corporations pay and the rates paid by firms organized as “pass-through” entities, such as S corporations or partnerships.

Status Quo in Congress

The Capitol Hill balance of power will be largely status quo. Republicans maintained control of the House and the Senate—though, in both cases, with slightly diminished margins.

While Republicans clearly had a big day on Nov. 8, their sway over federal policies and legislation will not be absolute, because they lack the 60 votes in the Senate needed to ensure that legislation, and presidential nominees, won’t be blocked by filibusters.

According to the Associated Press, as of the morning of Nov. 10, Republicans held 51 Senate seats and Democrats 48, including two Independents who caucus with them. A race in Louisiana will be decided in a runoff. That compares with a 54-46 Republican-Democratic (and Independents) split now.

Democrats picked up two U.S. Senate seats. In Illinois, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) defeated incumbent Mark Kirk (R) and in New Hanpshire, Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) defeated Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R). In Nevada, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) won the seat being vacated by retiring Minority Leader Harry Reid.

But several other Republicans won in races rated as toss-ups, including Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.) Richard Burr (N.C), Ron Johnson (Wis.); and Pat Toomey (Pa.). Another GOP winner was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who bested challenger Rep. Patrick Murphy (D), the son of the chairman of Miami-based Coastal Construction.

The House will have 239 Republicans and 193 Democrats, according to AP as of early Nov. 10, compared with a 246-186 breakdown now, plus two vacant seats. In Florida, Murphy’s former House seat representing North Palm Beach County and the Treasure coast was won by Republican candidate Brian Mast. Also in Florida, Francis Rooney, chairman of construction firm Rooney Holdings, Naples, Fla., won his race for a U.S. House seat as a Republican.

War on regulation?

Industry executives also are looking for Trump to make changes in Obama administration regulations. ACEC’s Hall points to the so-called “blacklisting” rule, which requires federal contractors to verify their compliance with workplace-related statutes in order to qualify for federal work. He also mentions a Fair Labor Standards Act rule revising the pay levels at which employers must pay overtime. Trump’s election, he says, “has to bolster our efforts at revisiting these rules and scaling them back to a fairly significant degree.”

AGC’s Sandherr said voters sent a message: “They are tired of tax and regulatory policies that discourage job creation.”

Group spokesman Brian Turmail said the group wants to see action on regulations mandating project labor agreements and paid sick leave. He said it also favors replacing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s silica-dust regulation “with a new rule that actually improves workplace health and safety instead of setting unattainable goals.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky ) also wants to see some Obama administration rules and presidential executive orders done away with. He told reporters on Nov. 9 that Republicans would work with Trump administration officials “and see what kind of unilateral action he can take to undo some of this regulatory overreach which has slowed the economy so much.”

AGC also is seeking “significant changes, if not repeal” of the the Affordable Care Act. Turmail added that AGC member firms see increasing costs of health care as “the second-greatest threat…to their long-term vitality, after only tightening margins.” McConnell said repealing the health-care law is “a pretty high item on our agenda” and added, “The sooner we can go in a different direction, the better.”

The mood was glum at a Nov. 9 press briefing by environmental groups. Leaders from the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and other organizations expressed deep disappointment in the election’s outcome. All of the groups at the briefing had tried to mobilize support for Clinton and pro-environmental House and Senate candidates.

The environmental officials said they were determined to challenge any efforts to roll back environmental protections. They will do this on a variety of fronts, from court challenges to legislative advocacy to grassroots activities. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said, “We will not be in a defensive crouch over the next four years.”

The advocates said that Trump’s close win was not a mandate to reverse course on climate change. Some state governors, for example, have said that they support the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a key element of the Obama’s administration’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from powerplants, said David Goldston, NRDC’s director of government affairs.

Brune said that during the Bush administration, the Sierra Club was able to stall or halt 184 coal plant projects.

Additionally, the progress that is being made in the electric sector under the CPP is on a trajectory that is irreversible, Brune said. “We don’t think a Trump administration will be able to reverse the progress that we’ve made,” he said.

Lame-duck session on the horizon

Construction lobbyists also will focus on the coming lame-duck session. The must-pass legislation is an appropriations measure to fund most federal agencies beyond Dec. 9, when a current stopgap expires. McConnell said he wanted to complete a spending measure by the end of December that would extend through the rest of fiscal year 2017, which ends next Sept. 30.

That coming legislation won’t include military construction and Dept. of Veterans Affairs programs, which won full-year fiscal 2017 funding in a bill enacted on Sept. 29.

Many construction, waterways and port officials—and at least some key congressional lawmakers—also would like to see a new Water Resources Development Act approved before the current Congress ends. The Senate and House have approved differing WRDA versions but those differences have not yet been reconciled. That WRDA measure would authorize at least several billion dollars for new Corps of Engineers flood control, dredging and other projects. It may also include drinking-water and wastewater-treatment funds.

Bond and Ballot Issues: Win Some, Lose Some

Construction participants also watched outcomes of ballot questions that could green-light new project spending and govern how firms and others do business, in many cases.

Not all items gained voter support, but some won big.

California voters clearly spoke up for education in approving the $9-Billion Proposition 51, which allows the state to sell $9 billion in general obligation bonds for new and upgraded school facilities. It is the first school construction bond measure on the state’s ballot since 2006, placed there by a coalition of builders.

In fast-growing Colorado, where a record $4-billion total of school bond money was up for decision, voters split on two of the largest totals. Denver residents overwhelmingly approved, by a 65% to 35% vote, a $628-million tax package for new construction and upgrades. But Jefferson County voters rejected a $568-million spending initiative by about 54% to 46%.

California voters also narrowly rejected, by 51-49%, Proposition 53—the so-called “No Blank Check” initiative that required statewide voter approval for revenue bonds above $2 billion on a state-owned or managed project. The measure was largely funded by a Central Valley landowner opposed to a proposed $15-billion delta tunnel, known as the California Water Fix, and could have complicated financing for the state’s high-speed rail project.

The largest transportation improvement measure in the state, the $120-billion Measure M in Los Angeles was headed for passage, 68% to 32%. The Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan is a half-cent sales tax countywide with no sunset clause. It would fund a rail tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass and a subway extension to Santa Monica.

Voters on both sides of San Francisco Bay approved a bond measure for $3.5 billion to upgrade aging core components of the region’s BART transit infrastructure. The package will address more than 90 miles of track, water-damaged tunnels and the system’s nearly half-century old train control system, all of which have contributed to increased service disruptions and other operational issues.

Although critics contend that BART’s woes are due at least in part to the agency’s prioritizing system expansion over maintenance, a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase approved in Santa Clara County will help fund a proposed extension to downtown San Jose. Area freeways will also benefit from the measures expected $6 billion in additional tax revenue.

But Sacramento’s $3.6 billion road and transit proposal fell short by just over 1% of the needed vote, while opponents of the San Diego Council of Governments’ failed $18 billion public transit and freeway program faulted the plan’s emphasis on transit, with only $2.6 billion earmarked for freeways and car pool lanes. Environmental groups were split on the proposal, with opponents claiming the plan didn’t do enough to promote alternative mobility modes such as trolleys, busses and bicycles.

Also defeated in San Diego were two proposals to boost its hotel room tax, which would have directed up to $1.8 billion toward a new convention center and football stadium. Owners of the city’s NFL team consider public funding essential for a new facility to prevent relocation to another city.

Washington state voters favored the $54-billion Sound Transit Proposition 1 with a 55% approval rating to expand light rail and bus operations, but they strongly rejected Initiative 732 by a margin of 59-41%. The measure would have imposed the nation’s first carbon emission tax on the sale or use of certain fossil fuels and fossil-fuel-generated electricity, with the amount increasing gradually to $100 per metric ton and being used to offset sales taxes.

Nearly 60% of Austin, Texas, voters said yes to issuing $720 million in transportation bonds—the largest such measure approved in city history. Funded by an increase in the property tax, the bonds will relieve congestion along nine major corridors through major street and traffic control upgrades.

Wake County, N.C., voters approved a 10-year, half-cent sales tax increase to provide $2.3 billion for commuter rail and bus rapid transit systems that proponents say will help relieve road congestion across Raleigh’s fast-growing suburbs. The 2016 referendum had the support of area business and transportation alliances, unlike similar proposals that emphasized light rail.

But work under way on a light rail line between Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., shut down on Nov. 9 after voters overwhelmingly rejected $155 million in state funding.

A constitutional amendment in Illinois for a transportation tax “lockbox” to insure monies are spent exclusively on transportation projects gained overwhelming voter support, while In New Jersey, Question 2, which also would dedicate gas tax revenue to state road and rail projects, won 54% of the vote. Proponents were optimistic of a win after a three-month standoff over transportation funding this summer shut all state road and rail projects until early October when a 23 cent-per-gal fuel tax deal was reached. But some observers thought backlash over the increase might have defeated the measure.

In Louisiana, voters approved an amendment to the state constitution for a trust fund of higher-than-expected tax revenue from corporations and oil and gas operations. At the $5 billion threshold, the fund could be tapped for infrastructure and other capital projects if okayed by two-thirds of state legislators.

Colorado voters resoundingly defeated in an 80-20 split, Amendment 69, called ColoradoCares, which would have created the first state-run, single-payer health-care system in the U.S. Funded largely through payroll and income taxes, proponents say it would have provided universal care for residents and save on costs. But opponents, including many in the construction sector, cited its cost—between $25 billion and $36 billion. But voters agreed to a minimum wage increase, with a 55-45% split.

Alabama voters have approved enshrining the state’s right to work law in its constitution. The Associated Builders and Contractors supported the move. Randall Curtis, Alabama chapter chairman, said the move would provide an additional layer of protection for employees by preserving their membership or non-membership in a labor union or organization from being used as a condition of employment. Others argued that it is redundant.

But Virginia voters disapproved a similar constitutional amendment. Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain proposed the change arguing that it would protect it from future legislators who could change the law. Opponents argued, however, that no attempt has been made to change the law in its 70-year history. The Richmond Times-Dispatch said the state’s right-to-work law is neutral but the amendment as written was tilted against union membership.

South Dakota defeated by a large majority a measure that would allow unions to charge non-union workers a fee for such services they provide such as collective bargaining. Opponents argued that it would force workers to pay union dues. Others argued that it would simply allow unions to charge workers a “fair share” fee for the efforts provided by the union on their behalf.

In Arkansas, voters said yes to a proposal to remove the 5% annual cap on general obligation bonds for economic development services and infrastructure used to attract projects. The 5% cap depends on annual revenue collections, but teeters around $300 million a year. Proponents argued it would help the state compete with other states for large development projects while opponents said there no longer would be a limit on the amount of state revenue used to support private projects.

Nearly 60% of Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment that now prohibits any new sales tax on professional services, something municipal officials envisioned to boost revenue. State realtors pushed for the ban, which was supported by a coalition of state organizations of professional surveyors, land title professionals, home inspectors, interior designers and home builders.

Missing from the list, however, was the American Council of Engineering Companies of Missouri, which took a neutral stance on the amendment. “ACEC Missouri decided to remain neutral on Amendment 4 because it was felt this initiative petition style of constitutional amendment had not come through a deliberative process like the Missouri legislature, and was written overly broad and could impact any possible source for new revenue that might be needed in the future for state or local public needs,” group President and CEO Bruce Wylie said by email.

Updated on Nov. 12 10:55 am with new Trump transition infrastructure funding number.

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