Industry News

Staff | September 28, 2010

Future large transportation projects in Massachusetts will have an assigned, independent "Owner's Representative" to prevent the kind of flaws and cost overruns marking Boston's Big Dig if sponsors of proposed legislation have their way. Testimony was given last week on S1847, "An Act Providing for Reform in Public Construction," which would require all major public road and bridge construction projects to employ such a person whose sole responsibility would be to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Sponsored by Inspector General Gregory Sullivan and state Senators Steven Baddour, Bruce Tarr and Marc Pacheco, the bill is said to address several inadequacies and loopholes in the state's horizontal construction laws that were brought to light by the Big Dig. Under the bill MassHighway, Massport, the Turnpike Authority, the MBTA, and other agencies seeking to construct a Public Work first have to competitively procure an independent "Owner's Representative" if the project is estimated to cost $50 million or more. It prohibits the owner's representative from engaging in either the design or construction phases of the project, to avoid the conflict of interest charges that have plagued the $14.6-billion Central Artery/Tunnel project.

Another provision requires owner's representatives to file sworn annual reports on the projects they oversee with the Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee, the Executive Office of Transportation, the Inspector General, and State Auditor.

Construction of the largest marina in New England is expected to take place on Aquidneck Island in Portsmouth, R.I. O'Neil Properties Group announced it has closed on $14.1 million in financing to acquire Hood Marina, 44.5 acres of waterfront plus 100 acres in the adjoining cove. O'Neill plans to develop The Newport Club, a 1,495-slip marina with retail shops, restaurants, residences, and marine-related support facilities. Since 2004, the O'Neill Group has become the Island's largest investor, announcing $1 billion worth of projects expected to create more than 1,200 jobs over the next 10 years. When complete, The Newport Club will have slips up to 500 feet, allowing large boat owners to dock in New England. It will include resort-style residences ranging from $395,000 to $2 million. The developers also hope to build brand-name luxury hotels at the site to yield a yachting destination that rivals Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale and Nantucket Harbor. Located not far from Newport, R.I., a prime embarkation point for cruise lines and charter ships sailing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, The Newport Club is anticipated to draw more mega-yacht traffic to the region, infuse the local economy with $1 billion in sales, and create up to 4,000 jobs in New England's boat-building industry. In other news, O'Neill Properties previously partnered with HSBC Bank USA, N.A., to finance The Carnegie Tower, a 21-story condominium building in Portsmouth billed as the architectural centerpiece of The Carnegie Abbey Club, a 450-acre private sporting estate on Narragansett Bay.

A 3.3-million-square-foot mixed-use development is planned for Burlington, Mass., by Nordblom Co. The developer recently received zoning approval to build the project, which includes retail shops, housing, offices, and hotels at the site, an existing business park.

Repairs to the deck of the bridge linking the easternmost town of the United States with Canada will limit traffic between the two countries this spring, announced the Maine Department of Transportation. CPM Constructors of Freeport, Maine, has a contract with Maine DOT to patch the concrete deck and apply a chip seal overlay to the U.S. portion of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Bridge. Located in "Downeast Maine," the structure connects Lubec, Maine, with New Brunswick's Campobello Island, famous for being the summer home of America's only president elected to four terms in office (1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944). Maintained jointly by the State of Maine and the Province of New Brunswick, the eight-span, 45-year-old international structure crosses over Lubec Narrows and is 874 feet long, with 495 feet of that U.S. owned. CPM's contract calls for repairing only the U.S. portion of the structure. The structure's steel beams support an integral 7-inch concrete deck and thin epoxy wearing surface, much of the latter being worn away. The contractor will patch spalled areas of the deck, sandblast the bridge surface, and overlay it with a rubberized chip seal. Robbin Lanpher, MaineDOT's construction manager for the project, explained that in order to repair deteriorated sections of the concrete bridge deck, the contractor needs to restrict traffic on the bridge to a single lane, and set up alternating one-way traffic with temporary traffic signals regulating traffic flow through the work area. Since the bridge is only 24 feet wide, curb-to-curb, the restriction also prevents wide loads from using the bridge during certain phases of construction. Once the concrete repairs are completed, CPM will put down a new surface of rubberized asphalt with stone chips, running from the bridge abutment in Lubec to the U.S.-Canadian boundary line on the bridge. Work is expected to begin in mid-April and be completed by the end of June.

Ownership of Shaughnessy Crane Services, Boston, Mass., has changed hands. AmQuip Corp., Bensalem, Pa., announced that it has acquired Shaughnessy from NES Rentals Holdings, Chicago. Shaughnessy/AmQuip will offer rough terrain, all terrain, crawler and tower cranes, ranging from six- to 600-ton capacities. The Shaughnessy/AmQuip division will remain headquartered in its current Boston location.

A group of New Hampshire lawmakers is proposing the construction of a $67-million bridge to span the Merrimack River between Merrimack and Litchfield to ease traffic congestion in the area. Five Hillsboro County state representatives are sponsoring a bill (H-582-FN-A) directing the state Department of Transportation (NHDOT) to give priority to the Northern River Crossing portion of a long-debated circumferential highway project proposed for this part of the Granite State. The new span would connect U.S. Route 3 in Merrimack to NH 3A and NH 102 in Litchfield. NHDOT states the construction project proposed by the bill would be funded initially through a 30-year bond issue that would be serviced by toll revenue. In addition to the debt service payments, the costs involved in the project are estimated to be $7.1 million for preliminary engineering, $2 million for right-of-way land acquisitions, and $57.8 million for construction, for a total of $66.9 million. Construction is expected to take four years.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has filed capital bond legislation that would provide a significant boost to infrastructure construction in the Bay State. House Bill No. 2915 would authorize approximately $1.47 billion in general obligation bonds to fund a number of "immediate capital needs of the Commonwealth." This includes about $809 million for improvements to state highways and bridges, an amount that will secure an additional $985 million in federal grants. Local communities will benefit from some $60 million in Chapter 90 grants to cities and towns for road and bridge projects, which, together with existing bond authorization, will fund $150 million of grants. The Massachusetts Municipal Association has commended the Patrick Administration for proposing the legislation, noting that Chapter 90 is one of the largest revenue-sharing programs in Massachusetts, providing funding to all 351 cities and towns for local road construction, preservation and improvement projects. Chapter 90 is the only share of the state gas tax that municipalities receive for these purposes. Other important earmarks of funds in the proposed legislation are $250 million for a new psychiatric hospital in Worcester to replace two obsolete state hospitals; $125 million for critical repairs to state office buildings, higher education facilities, medical examiner's offices, and state hospitals; $100 million for mass transit improvements; and nearly $10 million for the state match required to receive over $90 million in federal grants for local water and sewer projects.

A three-night "supermove" of a 430-ton electrical transformer from Portsmouth to Londonderry, N.H., was recently completed successfully according to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. Marck Kirouac of NHDOT's Highway Maintenance Bureau said there were no "incidents" as Mammoet USA — NE, Corp. of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, using a specially designed multi-axle moving trailer, conveyed the transformer from the Port Authority facility in Portsmouth to the AES Granite Ridge Energy Power Plant in Londonderry. The move, which began Sunday, March 25 at 11:00 p.m., required substantial review by NHDOT's Bridge Design and Highway Maintenance Bureaus with state and local police and all towns along the route. While it was coordinated to reduce potential impacts to the traveling public, some full-road closures were required at certain locations along the eight state highways traveled by Mammoet's trailer and its accompanying convoy of support trailers and escort vehicles. The contractor employed two 1,700-horsepower tractors in a push-pull configuration to move the heavy cargo, with a third "spare" tractor used to help climb steep hills along the way. Utility and cable companies moved lines whenever necessary to allow the big package to make its way to the power plant. The transformer arrived at its destination Wednesday at 4:30 a.m., where it is to be used as a temporary replacement for a transformer requiring repairs.

Suffolk Construction of Boston said it has made subcontractor scheduling seminars standard operating procedure to create project baseline schedules that incorporate input from all subcontractors on their projects. A spokesman said the seminars, which take place before ground is broken on a job, were started in response to subcontractors seeking more input into the scheduling process. They are designed to make every subcontractor feel comfortable with the timeline for his work and how it fits into the overall construction schedule. He added that the seminars encourage a team approach and are helping Suffolk get projects completed on time.

Construction has begun on a $60-million Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston. Designed by architect Payette Associates of Boston, the facility is being built under the construction management of Providence-based Gilbane Building Co. The largest academic building project in the University's history, the center of education and research is expected to drive economic development in the state's growing biotechnology industry. At recent groundbreaking ceremonies, R.I. Governor Donald L. Carcieri said that the facility will help prepare students for the future in the biotech industry, which employs more than 4,700 people in Rhode Island who earn $270 million in wages and generate $16 million in income and sales tax each year. To be completed in 2009, the 140,000-square-foot facility will house classrooms, specialty laboratories, support areas for DNA sequencing, faculty offices, incubator space for technology commercialization, a 100-seat classroom, and a two-story, 300-seat auditorium. Several features incorporated in the building are designed to qualify it for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Among these are an energy efficient heating and cooling system, a 'green' roof partially covered in vegetation to filter pollutants and reduce heating and cooling needs, storm water treatment, and environmentally friendly building materials. The Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences will be the anchor of the North District of URI's Kingston Campus, which will also be the future home of new buildings for the University's pharmacy, nursing and chemistry programs.