Construction Digest's 2008 Outlook

By Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

Reports indicate that the nation's economy should ease somewhat in 2008, with indicators pointing to a modest decline in nonresidential construction. But don't tell that to developers, contractors and equipment distributors in the six-state Digest region. They remain very optimistic about prospects for the new year as evidenced by continued growth in key segments of the marketplace such as the highway/bridge and commercial building markets.

According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), highway and bridge construction should continue to be among the most stable of U.S. construction markets during 2008. The value of construction work performed on highway and bridge projects will grow to just under $78 billion in 2008, representing a 3-percent to 4-percent increase over the estimated $75.5 billion during 2007.

Also, recent signs that rapid inflation in the cost of highway construction materials is easing may allow the projected federal, state and local highway investment to support more projects in 2008, says ARTBA.

Highway/Bridge Market

In the Digest region, the highway/bridge market remains upbeat with numerous projects planned or proceeding throughout the region. Topping the list is the $535-million Interstate 64 reconstruction project in St. Louis, which is reconstructing I-64 from west of Spoede Road in St. Louis County to east of Kingshighway in St. Louis City.

Other key highway/bridge projects include a $74-million design-build project on U.S. 35 in Putnam County, W. Va.; $57.5 million in improvements along I-64 in Shelby County, Ky; ongoing reconstruction of the Illinois Tollway; a new W. 38th Street/I-65 interchange on Indianapolis' west side; Corridor H construction in West Virginia; construction of the Main Street Bridge over the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, Ohio, an inclined, single-rib tied steel arch that is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States; the I-64 Kanawha River Bridge between Dunbar and South Charleston, W. Va.; I-275 rehabilitation in northern Hamilton County, Ohio; and a $48-million project to widen a section of the Mountain Parkway east of Campton, Ky.

The massive, $135-million Blennerhassett Bridge over the Ohio River near Parkersburg, W. Va., is scheduled to open this spring. The 4,009-foot-span — the longest single tied-arch bridge in the nation — will complete the four-lane upgrade of U.S. 50 from Clarksburg to the Ohio line. Elsewhere, a series of projects are proceeding for the expansion of U.S. 24 to a four-lane divided highway from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Toledo, Ohio.

Additional projects of note include the $15.5-million Veteran's Memorial Drive interchange in Mt. Vernon, Ill.; the U.S. 27 corridor widening project in Garrard County, Ky.; the I-65-I-80/94 interchange improvement project in northwest Indiana; a $30.8-million bridge over the South Branch of the Potomac near Moorefield in Hardy County, W. Va.; the Pendleton Pike reconstruction on Indianapolis' east side; Chicago's Jackson Bridge reconstruction; reconstruction of KY 92 in Kentucky; ongoing planning and implementation of the Ohio River Bridges project in Louisville and southern Indiana; widening and major construction of I-271 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio; the $17.1-million reconstruction of KY 30 in Jackson County, Ky.; the I-75 modernization project through Dayton, Ohio; a $34.8-million design-build highway improvement project in Perry County; Ky.; the $20.8-million widening of U.S. 40 in Indianapolis; the Edens Expressway improvement project in Chicago; the $25.1-million Route 21 project near Hillsboro, Mo.; and I-66 construction in Pulaski County, Ky.

Building Activity Soaring

On the building side, Louisville, Chicago and Indianapolis are the region's hot beds for construction. In downtown Louisville, initial work is proceeding for Museum Plaza, a $490-million, 62-story skyscraper complex that will house 165 luxury condominiums, 300,000 square feet of office space, a Westin Hotel, and the University of Louisville's Master of Fine Arts Program.

Also in Louisville, plans have been announced for the $250-million Center City District development district, featuring new retail stores, a movie theatre, a boutique hotel, condominiums, restaurants, and the creation of a venue for minor league hockey. The Center City plan will bring downtown investments currently under construction or planned — including Museum Plaza and Iron Quarter, a major new shopping and office complex downtown, to $2.1 billion.

Construction of Louisville's $252-million downtown arena is scheduled to begin this summer. The 22,000-seat facility will serve as the future home for the University of Louisville's men's and women's basketball programs.

Many large-scale residential and mixed-use developments are in the works in Chicago. Key projects include The Chicago Spire, a 2,000-foot iconic residential building; Aqua, an 82-story mixed-use tower; and Trump International Hotel & Tower.

In Indianapolis, officials have unveiled plans for the $325-million JW Marriott complex downtown, which will include a 29-story JW Marriott tower — the city's largest convention hotel. Meanwhile, construction of Lucas Oil Stadium is heading toward completion later this year. The new stadium will replace the RCA Dome, which be demolished to make room for the Indiana Convention Center expansion — slated to begin in spring/summer.

Some of the other major regional building projects planned or proceeding include the new Albert B. Chandler hospital at the University of Kentucky in Lexington; Mackey Arena renovation/expansion at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.; the Army's $180-million Human Resources Center of Excellence project at Fort Knox, Ky.; the emergence of condominium developments in downtown Indianapolis and downtown St. Louis; construction of several major athletic facilities at Indiana University in Bloomington, including the Memorial Stadium North End Zone Project; the University of Akron's $61.5-million football stadium; 300 North LaSalle, a 60-story office building in downtown Chicago; the $238-million SSM St. Clare Health Center in Fenton, Mo.; the $59-million Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics & Diagnostics at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.; Carmel City Center construction in Carmel, Ind.; The Shoppes at College Square in Belleville, Ill.; a $150-million mixed-use project in Clayton, Mo.; the Harrison Square development in downtown Fort Wayne, Ind.; the $23-million expansion of a Chesterfield, Mo.-based independent retirement community, The Willows at Brooking Park; the $50-million Health Careers & Natural Sciences Building and the $37-million Technology Education Center at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill.; Jewish Community Center's $37-million improvement program in St. Louis County, Mo.; the $51-million Will County Adult Detention Facility expansion project in Joliet, Ill.; Honda Motor Co.'s $550-million automobile manufacturing plant in Greensburg, Ind.; and Memorial Hospital of South Bend's expansion in South Bend, Ind.

In Chicago, advance work is proceeding on a complete rehabilitation of the Chicago Transit Authority's Grand/State Red Line Subway station — a $67-million project.

There is also plenty of activity in the aviation arena. Many multimillion-dollar projects are part of O'Hare International Airport's massive modernization program in Chicago. In Indy, the $1.1-billion New Indianapolis Airport — featuring a new midfield terminal — is scheduled to open in late 2008.

On the waterways, work continues on the Olmsted Locks & Dam project in Ballard County, Ky., and the rehabilitation of Wolf Creek Dam near Jamestown, Ky.