Monthly Archives: June 2011

Tunnel referendum not about whether to build

AGC urges a “yes” vote on the upcoming Seattle Referendum I regarding the tunnel to replace the Highway 99 viaduct as a “yes” vote keeps the process on track.

There’s been a lot of confusion about what, exactly, the referendum is about. The referendum is not a vote on building the tunnel or not, it is about the process. A “yes” vote keeps everything moving forward; a “no” vote itself doesn’t stop the tunnel, it simply delays it and increases costs.

Here’s the first paragraph of the proposed voter’s guide statement by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes:

“This ballot measure will neither eliminate nor choose the deep-bore tunnel as an alternative to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Rather…your vote may affect how the City Council will decide whether to proceed with current agreements on the deep-bore tunnel beyond preliminary design work, after environmental review is completed.”

A judge ruled last month that one section of a 140-page agreement between the city and state covering preliminary design work on the tunnel could go to voters. That section says the City Council shall “give notice” whether or not to proceed on the project once the final environmental review is done.

So the referendum is a narrow decision about whether the council puts that notice in the form of a resolution or an ordinance. If the “no” vote wins, the Council would have to pass an ordinance, and then that ordinance could be subject to yet another referendum.

No matter the technicalities of the referendum language, there is a political subtext in play. If the “no” vote wins big, some elected officials might sense that as the political winds turning against the tunnel. Even though the referendum isn’t an up-or-down vote on the tunnel, elected officials could read more into it and seek to add more hurdles into the process. But with all of the time, money and expertise that has gone into the process already, it’s time to keep going on the tunnel project, and a “yes” vote will make that happen.

Construction Commodities’ Prices Continue to Rise

Associated Builders and Contractors’ Chief Economist Anirban Basu issued a report and analysis on construction commodities:
Construction materials prices rose another 0.9 percent in May after rising 1.4 percent in April, according to the June 14 producer price index report released by the U.S. Labor Department. Prices are 7.5 percent higher than a year ago.
Inputs that experienced an increase include asphalt coatings and felts, which rose 3.4 percent in May and are up 2 percent for the year, and prepared asphalt, which rose 2.7 percent for the month, but are only up 0.5 percent compared to May 2010. In addition, steel mill prices rose 1.1 percent in May and are 10.1 percent higher than last year. Prices for fabricated ferrous wires were up 0.6 percent on a monthly basis and 6.5 percent on an annual basis. Plumbing fixtures and fittings prices rose 0.6 percent in May and are up 2.6 percent from one year ago. Iron and steel prices only slightly increased for the month, 0.2 percent, but are up 9.1 percent compared to May 2010 (on a non-seasonally adjusted basis).
Concrete prices were unchanged both for the month and for the year. Prices for nonferrous wire products fell 2.8 percent in May, but are still up 10.4 percent from one year ago. Softwood lumber prices declined 3.3 percent in May and are down nearly 12 percent year over year.
Crude energy prices declined 5.2 percent in May, while gasoline prices rose 2.7 percent to reach a level nearly 50 percent higher than this time last year. The overall producer price index rose only 0.2 percent in May, compared to a 0.8 percent increase in March and a 0.7 percent increase in April.


“Although prices for construction inputs continued to rise in May, the pace of increases decelerated in general,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “This is good news. The construction industry would benefit from a decline in materials costs, and commodity prices appear headed in that direction. With the global economy showing signs of strain and with the U.S. economy hitting a soft patch, the likelihood is that price increases will not be as rapid going forward and prices may begin to decline in the months ahead. This already can be seen in the price of oil, which is now down to $98 per barrel.
“Unfortunately, the rise in materials prices that already has occurred likely slowed the pace of commercial and industrial construction recovery,” Basu said. “Because of a rise in costs, certain projects were postponed, which is reflected in ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator data and in the Architecture Billings Index.”

Following the Williams Lien Case? You Should

The State Supreme Court is considering a case that could have significant ramifications for mechanic’s lien claims.

Williams v. Athletic Field, Inc. is an appeal of a lower court decision that invalidated a lien filed by a lien service on behalf of a contractor, even though the lien service used the “safe harbor” form that has long been commonly used, on the grounds that the lien was not properly “acknowledged” pursuant to another statute. Thousands of liens might be in violation of the law if that interpretation were to stand. 

This is an important case that may be under the radar screen of many contractors.  Here are some resources to help get everyone up to speed:

Click here for a background article by Groff Murphy’s Mike Grace.

Click here for TVW’s coverage of the oral arguments recently made before the State Supreme Court.

Click here for the amicus brief filed on behalf of AGC by Mike Grace and Daniel Carmalt of Groff Murphy PLLC.

BNBuilders goes to bat in Arlington

The team at BNBuilders this week is performing a makeover to the baseball field for the Arlington branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Snohomish County.

Volunteers are building a new batting cage, restructuring the dugouts and cleaning up. Before that happens, crews will demolish the existing batting cage, salvage materials and install the foundation for the new structure.

The new 74-foot-long wood batting cage will be installed on Saturday in the footprint of the old cage. Dugouts will be upgraded with roof systems, the maintenance shed will get a new coat of paint and the front entry will be re-landscaped.

BNB’s Community Service Team received material, labor and cash donations from many of its suppliers, subcontractors and employees. They are: Auburn Mechanical, McKinstry, Nelson Electric, Precision Electric, Prime Electric, Sea Tac Electric, Willis of Seattle, WB Flooring, George Goddard, Stively, Bravo, SkB Architects, G&W Flooring, WA Commercial Painters, Matheus Lumber, Stanwood Redi-Mix, City of Arlington, LaValle Vac & Drainage, and Pacific Construction Supply.

BNB’s team is headed up by Jeff Sebenik.

Home run for BNB and associates!

Venmar recalls air exchangers

Venmar is recalling several models of air exchangers because they can catch on fire. About 1,400 units were sold in the U.S.

The Canadian-made machines were sold through heating, plumbing and building supply distributors from January 1996 to December 2001. They cost $350 to $850.

The affected units are: Venmar models EX 20XXX, 41005, Air Exchanger; Venmar AVS models 4100X; vanEE model 1601510; Flair models 41XXX; Hush model 1601510; and Guardian by Broan model AE60.

Consumers should turn off their units and contact Venmar for a free inspection and repair by a company field technician. Venmar can be reached at (866) 441-4645 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays, or at


Students draw their best wildlife bridges

Two elementary school kids have won the 7th annual I-90 Bridging Futures Art and Essay Contest.

Susan Wehelie and Thomas Snedeker topped more than 100 students from around the state who drew wildlife bridges and wrote about the importance of considering wildlife in highway design.

Susan is a fourth grader from Dunlap Elementary in Seattle and Thomas is a fifth grader from Lincoln Elementary in Ellensburg. They were given goodie bags and framed copies of their art. Their classes each got $200.

WSDOT and the I-90 Bridging Futures Coalition sponsored the contest.

Way to go kids!

(Photos courtesy of WSDOT)




Support the Columbia River Crossing!

As one of the largest public works projects in the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia River Crossing will create thousands of family-wage jobs and ease congestion on the West Coast’s main trade corridor between Mexico and British Columbia.

AGC of Washington is on board: we support the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project and is a member of the Columbia River Crossing Coalition, a group of over 400 businesses, individuals and organizations that support the completion of the Crossing on time and on budget.

The Coalition invites individual companies to join and to grow the list of supporters. Visit the CRC Coalition’s website for more information about the project and to join the coalition.

Watch a 1,400-ton museum get moved in Iowa

Workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this morning are expected to start an epic lift involving a 2.8 million-pound building.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library was swamped during the 2008 flood and backers are moving it to a higher elevation to hopefully avoid a repeat. Jeremy Patterson Structural Moving will move the building from the banks of the Cedar River across the street.

The museum has a live webcam where you can view the action, which is scheduled to start at 6 a.m. Pacific time.

Studs in the wood-frame building have been bolted to 2-foot-square beams for the lift and move. The entire building sits on four main beams, each 210 feet long, which were cross-braced for the move. The corners of the building were tied together with steel cable and bracing.

Crews today will use a series of hydraulic jacks to lift the building so that they can place 140 motorized dollies below it. Then, a worker will drive the building to its new location, where it will be elevated 12 feet to fit onto a new pedestal.

The new museum will be expanded to 50,000 square feet in the future. Its final resting spot will be 3 feet above the level of the 2008 flood.

“It’s apparently the largest museum ever relocated for flood hazard mitigation, and probably the only museum ever elevated,” said Rod Scott of Jeremy Patterson Structural Moving in a press release.

Yeeeeehaaaaa! Saddle up yer forklifts!

Good at maneuvering a forklift? Well pardner, here’s your chance to win some greenbacks.

The Governor’s Industrial Safety & Health Advisory Board and the Department of Labor & Industries are holding their 14th Annual Forklift Rodeo, which matches up the state’s best drivers.

Regional competitions will be held in three locations, starting with Richland this Saturday, then Spokane on July 9 and Auburn on Aug. 20. Drivers will operate 5,000-pound forklifts with automatic transmissions. It costs $40 to register and only the first 30 drivers at each location will be allowed to compete.

Finalists will compete at the annual Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Conference in Tacoma on Sept. 28 and 29.

Cash prizes will be awarded for the top 7 drivers in the regionals and top five in the finals. First prize at the regional level is $300. The winner of the finals will take home another $500.

To register for Richland, click here; for Spokane click here; and for Auburn click here. General information can be found here.