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Daily Drill: Boring Bertha and Union Blues


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Photo: Washington State Department of Transportation on Flickr

Bertha Bores and Taxpayers Rejoice

The huge traffic tunnel being massively drilled under Olympia, Washington at a rate of about 50 feet a day is 72% done. But that is not the big news. What really has taxpayers cheering is that the recent boring successes of Bertha—the so-named rock-chewing machine that is doing all the tunneling—have reduced the project cost overruns by about a third, just since last July.

Is the Construction Union an Endangered Species?

Union membership has halved since 1983, and a scant 13% of all construction workers are unionized today. The drop in union membership has been largely ascribed to...cost. Which is to say, union wages result in the provided products and services costing more in turn, which has the effect of depressing demand for union-provided goods.  In 2015 the disparity between pay scales was stark. The average pay of the unionized construction worker was $1,099 per week in 2015, versus the non-union weekly wage of $743. 

Homebuilders Trade Group Unhappy with HUD Flood Rules 

Ed Brady would like to have a word or two with the office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Brady is Chairman of the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), and thinks the Feds overstepped their bounds when they came up with their flood plain mandates for new and refurbished affordable housing. 

Once-Sleepy Phoenix in Need of Downtown Building Boom

There are studio apartments in downtown Phoenix, AZ that go for $1100/mo. And a recent study shows that, despite the downtown area's having morphed from a tumbleweed corridor to a happening nexus of clubs and sports arenas, there were more folks living in downtown Phoenix in 1970 than there are today. Yes, the town needs inventory. Or as Arizona Multi-Housing Association CEO Tom Simplot says, "We need to build thousands and thousands of new apartments in downtown Phoenix."

Texas Water Woes

Texas needs new piping. The Lone Star State's water conveyance system is a massive 60 year-old network of intertwined iron and steel pipes that is basically failing in bits and pieces all over the place. The general disintegration of the water infrastructure caused Corpus Cristi officials recently to ban all tap water use in that city for three and a half days.