Earlier this year, the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) reached its lowest level in decades, ending July at $6.1 billion dollars. A congressionally approved transfer of more than $8 billion boosted the fund’s balance to end the fiscal year (September 30) at $12 billion, but that is still the second-lowest year-end level since 1984. As we speak, the House and Senate are working on a six-year funding extension for it. The fund pays for all federal highway projects and another (mass transit above) pays for all federal mass transit projects. Both are suffering as the gas tax that funds them has not been raised since 1993 and most cars are much more fuel efficient these days.
Shipments from US steel companies were down in September and the federal Highway Trust Fund reached its lowest level in several decades in July.
Steel Shipments Down in September
The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported that for the month of September, US steel mills shipped 7,120,663 net tons, a 4.7% decrease from the 7,470,120 net tons shipped in the previous month and a 15% decrease from the 8,372,929 net tons shipped in September 2014.
Shipments on the year-to-date in 2015 are 66,162,973 net tons, a 10.7% decrease vs. 2014 shipments of 74,123,773 net tons for the first nine months of last year.
A comparison of September shipments to the previous month of August shows the following changes: cold-rolled sheet, down 7%, hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip were down 8% and hot-rolled sheets were down 10%.
How Low Did The Highway Trust Fund Go?
According to the US Energy Information Administration, the Highway Trust Fund reached its lowest level in decades earlier this year, ending July at $6.1 billion dollars.
A congressionally approved transfer of more than $8 billion boosted the fund’s balance to end the fiscal year (September 30) at $12 billion, but that is still the second-lowest year-end level since 1984.
When the Chicago Cubs’ season opened in April new challenges arose for the restoration of Wrigley Field, the kind that come from installing steel during an active baseball season.
Expediting of materials moved from Wrigley Field’s green lot moved to a south side steel yard. Steel erection on the new video scoreboard in the right field bleachers took place around game times.
Work on the bleachers finished in June, and general contractor Pepper Construction is continuing work on a new plaza building adjacent to the park. Work on this new construction building will continue into phase two, and it will provide a spacious underground clubhouse for the players as well as office space and other amenities.
Concrete work is completed for the foundations and the first level basement of the new building. Steel is going up as excavation continues. The steel is completed up to the 6th floor now. Sheathing and building envelope work on the new building will continue through next season.
“This has been so exciting for us,” said Kevin Heatter, project executive for Pepper. “Fans will see some really cool construction while seeing a baseball game. You won’t get that anywhere else. I tell the young kids in the trailer that what you will experience on this job, you will only see every 10 or 15 years if you’re lucky.
“You will likely never see a project exactly like this again because of the historic nature of Wrigley Field. It’s a unique project in a unique location that requires some of the best minds in our industry to come together to develop creative ways to build it. That’s what makes it a lot of fun. It’s a challenge, sure, but boy it’s what gets you excited in the morning when you come in.”
Wrigley Field’s bleacher restoration schedule was aggressive and precise, since the MLB off-season is among the shortest in pro sports. It’s also the coldest, as the term “boys of summer” means the only time to work on your stadium is during winter. The Chicago winter. Known for its wind and snow.
The Chicago winter did not cooperate with the off-season schedule. Much colder than the relatively light winter in 2013, the weather complicated the ballpark restoration and concurrent city of Chicago work to modernize underground utilities serving the stadium and the neighborhood.
The bleacher phase of the project was completely exposed to the elements and that made for a grueling and challenging January, February and March. Safety is the number one priority for general contractor Pepper Construction and many days the temperatures were simply too cold for the team to safely work.
This is the first of a multi-post series on a major infrastructure and historic preservation project near and dear to our hearts here at MetalMiner headquarters in Chicago, and how structural steel procurement and delivery helped it succeed.
Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs began one of the most important offseasons in the club’s history last year. The 1060 Project, named after the street address of Wrigley Field at 1060 W. Addison St. on Chicago’s North Side, got underway immediately after the Cubs season ended.
The development, led by the Ricketts family, will preserve the beauty, charm and historic character of “the Friendly Confines” that fans have cherished for more than a century, while simultaneously updating and improving it for both fans and players.
The 1060 Project: Phase One
The primary focus of the first phase was structural work to prepare Wrigley Field for enhancements and improvements over the course of the construction plan, and the restoration and expansion of the Budweiser Bleachers.
- Structural steel and concrete work throughout the facility
- A 500-seat Budweiser Bleachers section restoration and expansion in left and right field
- 300 new standing room positions in the bleacher deck
- An additional 15 feet of space in the left- and right-field bleachers
- Additional concession areas and new restrooms
- New outfield group terraces
- Outfield signage in the bleachers
- A 3,990-square-foot video board in left field
- A 2,400-square-foot video board in right field
- Work on the third-base side concourse, including new restrooms
- Excavation, foundational and structural work in the triangle parcel adjacent to the stadium along Clark Street to prepare for the Cubs’ new clubhouse, a concessions prep and staging space, and office development in phase two.
Using Technology to Document Existing Conditions
Pepper began the process with laser scanning to reliably document the exact geometry of visible existing conditions in the pre-World War I ballpark. The information from the scan was used to create as-builts, which were shared with design firms VOA Associates and DAIQ. This will help the team plan for future phases of the project. As progress is made, the team will continue capturing data for as-built conditions.
“You can theoretically ‘walk’ the entire stadium beginning at gate K and do a loop around the whole ballpark over the concourse in the 3D model imported from the scan,” said Kevin Heatter, project executive at Pepper.
The concourse is a key part of the renovation, supporting the expanded seating in the bleachers, providing more accessibility and improving access to expanded concessions. The ceiling and below-grade areas also house the mechanical, piping and steel structural supports of the bleachers. By creating a model of this area, engineering and construction teams could make well-informed decisions.
Glencore assured investors it is reducing its debt pile this week and President Obama rejected a request to suspend review of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Glencore Says Debt Payoffs On Track
Glencore said on Wednesday it was on track to reduce its debt and boost liquidity thanks to asset sales, and plans to deepen copper output cuts to help lift prices.
Swiss-based Glencore has pledged to cut its net debt to $20 billion from $30 billion by the end of 2016 to regain the trust of investors after its shares tumbled to record lows this year.
Obama Still Wants to Rule on Keystone XL
President Barack Obama wants to rule on the long-pending Keystone XL oil pipeline by the end of his presidency, the White House said on Tuesday, calling a request by the project’s Canadian developer, TransCanada, to delay a review while it works out route details with Nebraska officials “unusual.”
Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s passed the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (STRRA) of 2015.
US steel shipments decreased in July and a major steel trade association backed lifting limits on trucking tonnage in a new transportation bill.
Steel Shipments Decrease Again
For the month of July, US steel mills shipped 7,591,897 net tons, a 2.1% decrease from the 7,758,087 nt shipped in the previous month and a 10.6% decrease from the 8,492,744 nt shipped in July 2014. Shipments on the year-to-date in 2015 are 51,572,190 nt, a 9.9% decrease vs. 2014 shipments of 57,269,890 nt for 7 months.
A comparison of July shipments to the previous month of June shows the following changes: cold rolled sheets, down 1%, hot rolled sheets, down 4% and hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip, down 5%.
AISI Backs Higher Trucking Tonnage Limit
The American Iron and Steel Institute applauded the introduction of a bill by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), the Safe, Flexible, and Efficient Trucking (SaFE) Act, which enables states the flexibility of permitting six-axle trucks to carry up to 91,000 pounds.
Thomas Gibson, AISI president and CEO, said, “With nearly 70% of all US freight tonnage moved by trucks and overall freight tonnage expected to grow to nearly 25% truck weight reform needs to be included in the surface transportation reauthorization legislation when it goes before the House this Fall. Like many manufacturers, the steel industry utilizes all modes of transportation to move goods, but steel products moved by truck can easily reach current federal weight limits before they maximize truck capacity. AISI has long-supported this legislation to improve efficiency and safety, and lower logistical costs.”
“We applaud Congressman Ribble for introducing this critical measure, which will reduce road wear, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize bridge impact, make truck transportation safer, and preserve state and local control. We urge the House to include the language in any House transportation funding bill,” Gibson concluded.
A giant robot fight will happen sometime next year.
I won’t try and justify this by the metal content — which is interesting in its own right — or by the turn of fortunes that has been created by taking an old repair shop for cargo ships and turning into a new industrial enterprise, admirable as that is, no this posts stands on its own two mechanical feet as pure fun.
The robot constructors of the American entry are three engineers who basically wanted to live out their childhood fantasies and build a fighting robot. Weighing in at 12,000 lbs. and measuring some 15-ft. tall the MegaBot MKII is everything a child could imagine and more.
The backers have found a worthy opponent in Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industries Kuratas, against whom they can wage war. Read more
Earlier this week the London Metal Exchange announced that its clearinghouse would now accept offshore Chinese renminbi as collateral, effective immediately. MetalMiner Editors and Co-Founders Lisa Reisman and Stuart Burns discuss the significance of this announcement but more important, its potential impact on industrial buying organizations.
Lisa: Do you think this could mean that eventually metals are offered in a currency other than US dollars?
Stuart: I think that is still some way off for the main London market but the HKEx has run RMB-priced Asian mini metals markets for aluminum, zinc and copper since late last year in Hong Kong. This announcement by the LME now is about collateral placed by market participants for open positions. They are not suggesting London contracts will be priced in RMB.
Lisa: Why do you think the LME made this move?
Stuart: On one level there is the recognition of the RMB’s growing importance as an international (although we’d like to point out, not freely traded) currency and of China (and Chinese companies) importance as a major player in the global metals markets. On another level, it could also be seen as a political move. The LME is owned by the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Group (HKEx) and the key to unlocking fair value in their purchase of the LME was always their ability to open up China as a market for the LME’s services. Anything they can do to make the LME more accessible and more acceptable as a trading platform for Chinese companies is a beneficial step in that direction. Read more