As reported in the March 10 edition of the Associated General Contractors of America’s (AGC) Data Digest, the United States and Mexico have signed an agreement to phase out the 16-year-old anti-dumping duty on Mexican cement. The AGC reports that beginning April 3, the current duty ($26 per metric ton) will fall to $3, but imports from Mexico will be limited to 3 million metric tons, to be further allocated by region. These conditions will apply for three years. As of April 1, 2009, Mexican cement, like cement from other countries, will be allowed into this country without duty or limit. To encourage more sources of supply, the agreement directs Mexico to reserve at least 6 percent of its export limit for new exporters.
"AGC had pressed for an end to the duty and asked for flexibility when it became clear quotas would be part of the package, said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the AGC. "The final deal allows for an upward adjustment in years two and three, carryovers and carrybacks by each region, and an extra 200,000 metric tons if there is increased U.S. demand for cement in connection with a declaration of a state of emergency as the result of a disaster."
According to the results of an investigation by the LA Times, hundreds of bridges in California that are maintained by city and county agencies remain at risk for collapse should a major earthquake hit nearby. The newspaper reports that the local governments do not have the funds to repair or reinforce bridges under their jurisdiction.
"A Times review of state and county records found that nearly 600 bridges and overpasses that officials identified as being at the highest risk for collapse in a major temblor have yet to be reinforced," the newspaper reported March 12. "They include several landmark spans in Los Angeles, such as the Hyperion bridge in Silver Lake and the Art Deco 6th Street bridge across the Los Angeles River downtown."
Part of the problem, the LA Times says, stems from a 2002 state decision to eliminate a transportation fund that was earmarked for city and county bridge retrofit projects. There still is federal money available for such projects, but most local governments cannot even afford the required matching funds.
A unique park/recreational project has taken shape near Birmingham, Ala., in which a concrete bowl (a swimming pool without the water) has been poured in the shape of a skull as part of a new skateboard park. Arguably one of the more unusual concrete designs to come along in some time, the Veterans Skate Park Bowl is part of a 9,150-square-foot concrete skate park in Alabaster, Ala., that officially opens on April 1.
The bowl itself measures 52 feet long and 29 feet wide, with a maximum depth of 10 feet. Along with the rest of the facility, it was designed by Site Design Group, Inc., an Arizona-based design firm that specializes in skate park design. Birmingham-based Golden & Associates Construction was the main contractor, and California Skate Parks from Upland, Calif., provided the shotcrete used for the facility. To learn more about this unusual park and to view pictures of the bowl, visit www.veteransskatepark.com.
Following a Pentagon audit, the U.S. Army has decided to pay engineering firm Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) nearly all of the money-about $2 billion-the firm says it is owed as part of a multi-billion contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in war-torn Iraq.
The federal government’s contract with the firm has been under scrutiny since 2003, particularly from Congressional democrats who said KBR was unfairly chosen because of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former affiliation with the firm’s parent company Halliburton.
However, in its audit of the fees KBR charged the U.S. Army for its services, the Pentagon concludes that in the haste and peril of war, the firm did as well as it could. And in a released statement, KBR spokesperson Cathy Mann said: “Once all the facts were fully examined, it is clear, and now confirmed, that KBR performed this work appropriately per the client’s direction and within the contract terms.”
Autodesk Inc. (San Rafael, Calif.) has agreed to acquire Constructware (Alpharetta, Ga.), a 65-person software developer that focuses on web-based, construction-oriented collaboration services. Autodesk plans to combine its web-based design and project management service, Autodesk Buzzsaw, with its Constructware counterpart.
For the near future, Constructware will continue operations and retain most of its staff. The company had a strong 2005, with sales up 70 percent compared with 2004 and a 250-percent increase in new business. Autodesk Buzzsaw has more than 137,000 users while Constructware has more than 29,000 users. Autodesk expects to close the deal in 30 to 60 days, but already has received approval from its board of directors. No decision has been made yet regarding the Autodesk and Constructware brands. They will both be maintained for the time being. Constructware was founded in 1994.
Engineering and consulting firm Arup is developing what it calls the world’s first sustainable city. To be located near Shanghai on the third-largest island in China, the 34-square-mile Dongtan is one of China’s first large-scale projects that is meant to symbolize the country’s determination to clean up its environmental record and slow its relatively uncontrolled growth.
The first phase of Dongtan is expected to be completed by 2010, with the entire development scheduled to open in 2020. The project will be divided into three villages, each with its own residential and commercial properties as well as its own schools. Additionally, the island will remain about 40 percent agricultural and therefore self-sustaining.
Arup says that included in the sustainable design are public transportation; energy-efficient buildings powered by wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, and converted waste; and it all will be constructed using as many organic and biodegradable materials as possible. Further, only alternative fuel vehicles will be used on the island.