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Electrical Connection Contractors Dominate Annual Listing of Largest Electrical Contractors in St. Louis


The St. Louis Business Journal’s annual ranking of the region’s largest electrical contractors features 15 Electrical Connection member contractors among the 17 firms ranked.  The 15 contractors are all members of the St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractor Association (NECA) and signatories to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1.  IBEW/NECA partner to form the Electrical Connection.

The rankings are by gross billings in 2020 and can be found at this link.   Among the 15 St. Louis NECA electrical contractors on the April 9, 2021 Business Journal listing and their revenues are:

  • J.F. Electric Inc. —  $274.50 million
  • Sachs Electric — $264.41 million
  • Guarantee Electrical Co. — $206.20 million
  • PayneCrest Electric Inc. — $165.00 million
  • Aschinger Electric Co. — $49.31 million
  • Bell Electrical Contractors Inc. — $34.40 million
  • TSI Global Cos., LLC — $28.13 million
  • Kaemmerlen Electric — $27.00 million
  • Kaiser Electric — $27.00 million
  • Kay Bee Electric  — $23.10 million
  • RJP Electric LLC — $22.75 million
  • Schaeffer Electric Co. Inc. — $21.00 million
  • Schneider Electric of St. Louis LLC — $20.51 million
  • Pyramid Electrical Contractors — $19.20 million
  • J. Bathe Electric — $8.71 million

The industries served by the NECA contactors on the list span residential and commercial, including healthcare, power, industrial, retail, multifamily, renewable energy, institutional, R&D, data centers, schools and more. 

St. Louis NECA contractors employ IBEW electricians and communication technicians.  The IBEW/NECA Electrical Connection partnership provides safe and reliable electrical construction, maintenance, repair and replacement services across Missouri, the nation and the world.  Learn more at www.electricalconnection.org.

A View From the Top


By: Michael Chollet, Publisher – St. Louis CNR Magazine


Mike Chollet

A few weeks ago, my son and I set out on our annual trout fishing trip to the White River in Arkansas. The Fall weather and Ozark mountain scenery were beautiful and the fish were exceptionally cooperative. We’ve been making the trip for several years now and I always look forward to a stretch of river where there are a number of impressive homes – my favorite sits at the tip-top of the tallest hill in sight, 300 or more feet above the river. The house is easy to spot because of its distinctive red, metal roof. Over the years, it has become a fishing reference point that we nicknamed the Red Roof Inn. I’ve often wondered about how the world looks from way up there.

This year, on our first day out, my son laid his rod aside after a few hours of fishing and pulled a surprise from his knapsack – a small drone with high-def video capability which he launched from the front transom of the boat. He flew it low over the river a few hundred yards and then it rose and rose until it was flying a few hundred feet above the “Red Roof Inn.”  All the while he was controlling it with his phone and viewing the video footage as it recorded. The structure we could see from below was the largest of a few others surrounding a large concrete courtyard. The drone footage showed that this hill was indeed the highest for miles around and the view from the top, as I had guessed, was truly spectacular.

Seeing that little gizmo in action, I felt lucky to be living in a time of such magical technology. Winston Churchill’s life spanned the invention of the airplane and the moon landing, but folks of my generation have witnessed technological advancements that far surpass those experienced by old Sir Winston.

We’ve had the privilege of seeing impressive progress in a lot of other areas as well. As the eldest son of no-nonsense woman who ran her own company for as long as I can remember, it’s meaningful for me to see women gain an increased presence in leadership roles in a range of industries. They are outnumbering men in graduating into professional careers such as law and medicine and the number of women graduating from business schools is nearing 50 percent of all enrollees. Inroads have also been made in the traditionally male-dominated construction industry.

Those inroads and the remarkable people who are forging them were the inspiration for our 2020 Women in Construction Awards which are featured in this issue. An all-star selection committee made up of eight industry insiders took on the daunting task of choosing our winners from among the 60 nominations we received, and we are extremely grateful for their time and effort.

Reading through the submissions, it was clear that the nominees share a common characteristic of tenacity which is a requisite tool for a woman attempting to open doors in the construction industry. The high-achieving women highlighted in this issue scratched out their own futures through advanced education, serious mentorships, challenging work experience and careful cultivation of industry relationships. We salute our 2020 Women in Construction winners and applaud all the nominees on their success. Your contributions have made the industry and the region better for all who aspire to share your view from the top.

A Piece of St. Louis Labor History Gets a New Home


Capri Pools & Aquatics Installs Eight-Ton Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 Logo at the Union’s New Training Center                     

A 50-year-old ornamental union logo has a new home at the new Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 training center in Earth City, Mo.  Capri Pools & Aquatics installed Local 562’s eight-ton logo etched in tile that was originally created for a pool at the union’s old headquarters in North St. Louis County.

Measuring 13 feet in diameter, Local 562’s logo will be the centerpiece of a monument at the new training center at 3755 Corporate Trail.  The training center will open this summer.

“It was created and placed at the bottom of pool at our old headquarters on Larimore Road around 1970 to remind our members and their families that they belong to something special,” said John O’Mara, business manager, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562.  “The pool itself was pretty unique.  It was built as a recognition of our union member’s hard work during the week, giving them a place for their families to rest, relax and be with friends.”

O’Mara said that about 15 years ago the pool was going to be filled in, but union members wanted to preserve the iconic logo.  It was extracted from the pool and later placed near the first tee at the union’s Emerald Green golf course.  When the long time headquarters at 12385 Larimore Road in Spanish Lake, Mo. was sold in 2017, the logo was placed in storage.

“As we train the next generation of Local 562 craft workers in new technologies in our industry, we also want to remind them of the generations of our workers who have help build the foundation of commercial, residential and industrial projects that sustain us today,” said O’Mara.  “The newly placed logo is also a reminder of our successes and sacrifices that have improved the rights of workers and delivered greater prosperity for families.”

Founded in 1912, Plumbers and Pipefiiters Local 562 represents more than 4,200 union members.  Learn more at www.local562.org.

Based in St. Louis, Capris Pools & Aquatics specializes in engineering, building and maintaining all types of aquatic centers, water parks, natatoriums, municipal swimming pools and a variety of recreational centers.  The firm has delivered more than 30 aquatic projects in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Ohio.  Learn more at www.capripool.com.

Carpenters’ National Campaign Against Fraud



The St. Louis – Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council’s parent organization is continuing its efforts to fight more than $8.4 billion annually in tax fraud perpetrated by dishonest contractors across the U.S.

According to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) and Joiners of America’s campaign, Stop Tax Fraud (http://stoptaxfraud.net), a minimum of one in five contractors commits federal tax fraud. The labor organization is continuing to raise awareness and wage a comprehensive effort to fight it.

“Hundreds of thousands of construction workers never see a W-2 because their bosses are paying them off the books,” said Frank Spencer, second vice president of the UBC. “In addition to fleecing the taxpayers, these cheating contractors are also shortchanging their workers. When these workers get hurt, they do not have workers’ comp. When they get laid off, they do not have unemployment. When they retire, they have nothing,” he added, “no social security or other retirement plan, all because their employers were committing fraud.”

Annual tax losses due to fraud, according to the UBC, are enormous. The federal government loses $115 million annually in Tennessee alone. New Jersey sees $26.3 million in state taxes disappear every year due to construction industry fraud. In Texas, that number is $1.06 billion.

“Legitimate contractors compete against these companies that don’t pay (income or employment) taxes,” Spencer said, “and that’s extremely hard to do. It puts honest contractors at a competitive disadvantage.”

The UBC’s fraud prevention campaign normally includes Tax Fraud Days of Action, where contractor employees and employers actively participate in public awareness events. But the COVID-19 precautions have temporarily halted these events, Spencer said.

“Suspending these events is disappointing but necessary during these times,” he said. “That being said, the COVID-19 outbreak is providing a stark example of why construction industry tax fraud is so damaging. There is no doubt that the coronavirus crisis is aggravated by having two million construction workers who routinely go without workers’ comp and unemployment insurance protections when they should have them. During this public health and economic crisis, it is also very clear that the construction tax fraud problem compounds the difficulties of shoring up individuals, companies and the entire economy. If the industry were operating as it should, our public treasures would be better able to relieve the economic misery to come,” Spencer added.

For more information on how you can assist in curbing construction industry tax fraud, go to www.standinguptotaxfraud.net.

CARES Act Provides 4 Possible Reasons to File an Amended Return


Submitted by Schmersahl Treloar

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act delivers good news to individuals and businesses, including valuable tax-relief measures. Some of that tax relief is retroactive. These provisions can affect 2018 and 2019 returns that have already been filed. One retroactive provision can, in some cases, go all the way back to 2013. Some taxpayers that file amended returns may receive a tax refund from prior years.

Here’s a summary of four retroactive CARES Act provisions that can potentially benefit you or your business entity after amended prior-year returns have been prepared and filed.

  1. Liberalized Rules for Deducting NOLs

Business activities that generate tax losses can cause you or your business entity to have a net operating loss (NOL) for the year. Many businesses are currently operating at a loss. But there’s a bright side: The CARES Act significantly liberalizes the NOL deduction rules and allows NOLs that arise from 2018 to 2020 to be carried back five years.

That means an NOL that arises this year can be carried back to 2015. In addition, an NOL that arose in 2018 can be carried back to 2013. Such NOL carry-backs allow you to claim refunds for taxes paid in the carry-back years. Because tax rates were higher in pre-2018 years, NOLs carried back to those years can be especially beneficial.

  1. Better Depreciation Rules for Real Estate QIP

The CARES Act includes a retroactive correction to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that allows much faster depreciation for real estate qualified improvement property (QIP) that’s placed in service after 2017.

QIP is defined as an improvement to an interior portion of a nonresidential building that’s placed in service after the date the building was first placed in service. However, QIP doesn’t include any improvement for which the expenditure is attributable to the enlargement of the building, any elevator or escalator, or the internal structural framework of the building.

The retroactive correction allows you to claim 100% first-year bonus depreciation for QIP expenditures placed in service in 2018 through 2022. Alternatively, you can depreciate QIP placed in service in 2018 and beyond over 15 years using the straight-line method.

Amending a 2018 or 2019 return to claim 100% first-year bonus depreciation for QIP placed in service in those years may result in a lower bill for the tax year the QIP was placed in service. It may even generate an NOL that can be carried back to a prior tax year to recover taxes paid in that prior year.

You could also amend a 2018 or 2019 return to claim 15-year straight-line depreciation for QIP placed in service in those years. That might not create an NOL for 2018 or 2019, but it would still lower your tax bill for those years.

  1. Suspended Excess Business Loss Disallowance Rule for Noncorporate Taxpayers

An unfavorable TCJA provision disallowed current deductions for so-called “excess business losses” incurred by individuals and other noncorporate taxpayers in tax years beginning in 2018 through 2025. An excess business loss is one that exceeds $250,000 or $500,000 for a married joint-filing couple. The $250,000 and $500,000 limits are adjusted annually for inflation.

The CARES Act suspends the excess business loss disallowance rule for losses that arise in tax years beginning in 2018 through 2020. Amending a 2018 or 2019 return to reflect the suspension of the excess business loss disallowance rule could result in a 2018 or 2019 NOL that could then be carried back to a prior tax year to recover taxes paid in that prior year. Or it could just lower the 2018 or 2019 tax bill. Either way, you’ll come out ahead.

  1. Liberalized Limit on Business Interest Expense Deductions

Another unfavorable TCJA provision generally limited a taxpayer’s deduction for business interest expense to 30% of adjusted taxable income (ATI) for tax years beginning in 2018 and beyond. Business interest expense that’s disallowed under this limitation is carried over to the following tax year.

In general, the CARES Act temporarily and retroactively increases the taxable income limitation from 30% of ATI to 50% of ATI for tax years beginning in 2019 and 2020. There’s no change for tax years beginning in 2018. Amending a 2019 return to reflect the liberalized taxable income limitation rule could result in a 2019 NOL that can be carried back to a prior tax year to recover taxes paid in that prior year. Or it could just lower the 2019 tax bill. Either way, you’ll come out ahead.

Special complicated rules apply to partnerships and LLCs that are treated as partnerships for tax purposes.

Important: Taxpayers with average annual gross receipts of $25 million or less for the three previous tax years are exempt from the business interest expense deduction limitation. Certain real property businesses and farming businesses are also exempt if they choose to use slower depreciation methods for specified types of assets.

To Amend or Not to Amend?

The four retroactive tax-relief measures provided by the CARES Act can impact prior tax years for which returns have already been filed. Amended returns can allow you or your business to benefit from these changes and recover taxes paid in prior years. Contact us if you have questions, need more information or want to authorize us to start preparing amended returns for you or your business.

Tarlton Completes Renovation to OMNIMAX Theater at Saint Louis Science Center


Tarlton Corp. general contractors and construction managers completed renovations to the Saint Louis Science Center’s OMNIMAX® Theater just in time for holiday guests. The theater reopened to the public Nov. 29.

The St. Louis-based firm’s scope of work in the five-story, 80-foot-diameter domed theater and adjacent spaces included the installation of a raised access floor that allows presenters to be better seen by the audience; installation of new carpeting, handrails and guardrails; lighting upgrades; the hoisting of the new projector system; electrical work associated with the new projector system; installation of a projector access platform; and technical upgrades that allow the Science Center to livestream and simulcast educational programming. The team also updated finishes in the theater lobby.

Tarlton Concrete Restoration, a division of Tarlton Corp., cleaned the theater’s rows of tiered concrete seating and applied a polyurethane-based coating to the floor. Similar to protective coatings Tarlton applies in parking structures, the concrete sealant will improve surface wear and provide long-term protection in the high-traffic theater.

Working directly for the Science Center, Spitz Inc. installed 433 new video screen panels in the dome’s existing framework to create a new, seamless screen. Sparrow Audio Visual updated the projection system to IMAX® with Laser, a next-generation laser technology designed for 180-degree domed theater environments. The system creates a 40 percent greater color range to produce a more immersive experience for theater-goers. This scope of work makes the theater one of just four IMAX Dome with Laser theaters in the world.

Tarlton worked closely with the Saint Louis Science Center to create a wider array of accessibility options for visitors using wheelchairs and companion seating. Upgraded technology for individuals with visual and hearing impairments includes assistive listening technology comprising an audio induction loop that transmits a magnetic wireless signal for use by people with hearing aids. The technology, relatively new to the St. Louis region, was provided and programmed by Senseart Solutions.

Renovations to the theater began in late July. Because the team was working in a fully operational facility open to the public, construction activities were phased to minimize disruptions to Science Center guests and staff. Materials were moved between the first-floor loading dock and second-floor theater before and after regular business hours. Because storage space was limited, deliveries of large orders (theater seats, for example) were scheduled just before installation. The Tarlton team included Sondra Rotty, project director; Nick Eshelman, project manager; Peter Boldt, project superintendent; and Michael Dahl, general foreman.

The project is the largest renovation to the theater since it opened in 1991. From that time until this year’s renovation, the OMNIMAX® Theater had screened 117 films to more than 8.7 million visitors.

The mission of the Saint Louis Science Center is to ignite and sustain lifelong science and technology learning. Named a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate in 2016, the Saint Louis Science Center features more than 700 interactive exhibits, as well as a five-story OMNIMAX® Theater, Boeing Hall and the James S. McDonnell Planetarium. For more information about the Saint Louis Science Center, please visit slsc.org. 

Tarlton Corp. is a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise that provides outstanding preconstruction and construction solutions to clients in the life science, higher education, health care, commercial, power and industrial markets. In business since 1946, the Midwest general contractor/construction manager also has special expertise in concrete construction, restoration and maintenance. Tarlton has completed many landmark St. Louis projects and is committed to improving lives through inclusive construction, civic engagement and service to others.

Washington University in St. Louis Unveils Transformative Project Constructed by McCarthy Building Companies


Sustainability, flexibility and sophisticated technology guided construction of the 18-acre, multi-building assignment.

A sweeping campus planning, design and construction project has transformed the Danforth Campus of Washington University in St. Louis following a two-year construction process managed by McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.

The $360 million, 18-acre East End Transformation project adds five new buildings, expands the university’s world-class Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, relocates hundreds of surface parking spaces into a state-of-the-art underground parking garage, and creates an expansive new park.

As construction manager, McCarthy used sophisticated technology and 4D planning tools to manage the project’s eight separate project components. This involved synthesizing the work of multiple architects and coordinating an onsite team of construction specialists and trade professionals.

“We were honored to help Washington University reshape the East End of its Danforth Campus into a vibrant green space and a hub for research, teaching and student life,” said McCarthy Project Director Ryan Moss.

During the project’s site excavation phase, a drone captured high-resolution aerial images on daily 12-minute flights over the 18-acre site. These photographs—and accompanying data—guided the construction team in assessing progress and adapting the schedule accordingly. Drones continued to equip the team with valuable data throughout construction to ensure the fast-track project remained on schedule.

Nearly six acres of surface parking lots have been converted to green space, furthering the university’s commitment to sustainability. All of the new buildings have been designed to achieve LEED Gold certification; several are currently on track to exceed those standards. Resource conservation measures include solar arrays to generate electricity, and heat recovery chillers to harvest waste heat to minimize heat island effect. Other sustainable features include a bioretention rain garden and native plantings; an expansive indoor green wall in Weil Hall; and the Active Commuter Hub, which includes shower facilities for those opting to bike or walk to work.

Flexibility informed the design and construction of the underground parking garage, which can be converted into classrooms and labs to accommodate the university’s future needs and plan for a potential future less dependent on automobiles. To support this flexibility, the construction team laser scanned all post-tensioning cable, rebar and embedded MEP systems to capture precise data before concrete was poured on the garage deck. The facility, which has 790 spaces and a projected lifespan of 100-plus years, is on track to receive certification from Parksmart, the world’s only rating system designed to advance sustainable mobility through smarter parking design.

Connectedness with the city and community is achieved with a reimagined entrance to campus across the street from Forest Park, long considered one of the best urban public parks in the nation. The Tisch Park creates new outdoor programming opportunities for Washington University, and welcomes the St. Louis community from the northwestern edge of Forest Park. The Kemper Art Museum expansion also creates new opportunities for community engagement, with space for events and a more visible, welcoming presence.

“The project was truly a unique opportunity to honor our physical heritage and lay the foundation for our future,” said Henry S. Webber, the university’s executive vice chancellor and chief administrative officer. “These world-class facilities will support world-class teaching and research and the everyday activities of our faculty, students, staff and guests for many years.”

Major components of the east end transformation include:

  • The Ann and Andrew Tisch Parkserves as a welcoming entrance to campus and is a gathering place for the university community and visitors alike. 
  • The Gary M. Sumers Welcome Center(25,500 GSF) provides a clearly designated starting point for campus visitors and houses the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Financial Services. 
  • The Craig and Nancy Schnuck Pavilion(18,000 SF) houses the Parkside Café, the Environmental Studies program and the Office of Sustainability. It also supports pedestrian and bicycle commuters with shower facilities, lockers and bicycle parking. 
  • The underground garage serves the Danforth Campus and opens to the outdoors, offering views of both the sky and landscaped gardens. 
  • Henry A. and Elvira H. Jubel Hall (84,000 GSF) houses the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science in the McKelvey School of Engineering. 
  • James M. McKelvey, Sr. Hall (86,500 GSF),which will be completed in 2020 and open in 2021, will house the McKelvey School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering. 
  • Anabeth and John Weil Hall (80,700 GSF)is the new main entry to the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. It houses graduate art and architecture studios, classrooms and a digital fabrication studio. 
  • TheMildred Lane Kemper Art Museum expansion (5,600 SF) includes a new 34-foot-tall polished stainless-steel facade, a new entrance foyer and additional exhibition space. The relocated Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden integrates the museum’s prominent collection of outdoor sculpture, including works by Auguste Rodin and Alexander Calder, into the expanded green space of the east end.

Watch a construction time lapse video.

View and download photos.

Project partners include:

Landscape Architect and Planner:
– Michael Vergason Landscape Architects

Planning and Design Firms:

– KieranTimberlake (Weil Hall, Sumers Welcome Center, Schnuck Pavilion, Kemper Art Museum

– Mackey Mitchell (Jubel Hall)

– Moore Ruble Yudell (Jubel Hall)

– Perkins Eastman (McKelvey Hall)

– BNIM (East End parking garage)


Washington University in St. Louis East End Transformation Facts and Stats

  • On-site construction workers, including over 3,100 trades professionals, have completed more than 1.1 million manhours of work so far.
  • Excavation of the East End construction site took less than 100 days. At the peak of excavation, more than 1,000 truckloads of dirt left campus each day.
  • 250 tons of steel are included in the Sumers Welcome Center and Schnuck Pavilion’s structures, while 510 tons of steel are included in Weil Hall’s structure.
  • The project added 48,718 square feet of new and future research space and 6,000 square feet of new makerspace.
  • 10 species of plants make up the 30-foot living green wall in Weil Hall’s Kuehner Court.
  • The new underground parking garage ceiling reaches up to 20 feet high, which will enable the facility to be converted to academic space in the future.
  • All new buildings are designed to achieve a minimum of LEED Gold 
  • The landscape replaces nearly six acres of parking lots with green spaces. When completed in 2020, the East End landscape will feature 390 trees of 38 different species. Ninety-four percent of the trees were grown regionally.
  • The Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden at the Kemper Art Museum includes seven outdoor sculptures. 

McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. is the oldest privately held national construction company in the country – with more than 150 years spent collaborating with partners to solve complex building challenges on behalf of its clients. More information about the company is available online at www.mccarthy.com or by following the company on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram

KAI Designs Unique Shade Solar Canopy for Saint Louis Zoo


KAI Design has created a unique solar canopy for the Saint Louis Zoo that provides much-needed shade for visitors, absorbs light and generates power.

The solar panel shade canopy, officially called Williams Family Solar Pavilion, provides shelter for a 2,200-square-foot dining area at a prominent location in the zoo. During the planning process for a retail renewal program in the heart of the zoological park, the project team recognized an opportunity to greatly expand the amount of sheltered outdoor dining area.

“The prominence of the location presented a unique opportunity and demanded ambitious aesthetic goals,” said Carl Karlen, Design Principal at KAI and Senior Designer on the project. “The canopy overlooking the central lagoon is highly visible to the millions of annual visitors, many of whom will sit in its shade enjoying their meals. It will also host important after-hours events as a source of additional revenue. The generosity of a sponsor elevated the possibilities for a distinctive architectural solution adding to the fabric of the historic and varied campus.”

Discussions on sustainability and LEED certification goals yielded the decision to include electrical power generated on-site from a solar power array. Design challenges included integration of technical requirements and aesthetics of the solar array itself (a steep 20-degree panel slope, exposed wiring and connections and an industrial appearance).

“The strategic location of the structure was selected to avoid disruption to seating and other uses,” said Karlen. “LEED requirements for power generation and lighting spillover, and harmonization of the new structure with the existing naturalistic context were also considered.”

The final architectural design allowed for inclusion of extensive custom artwork engraved into the Corten steel structure, which features aquatic life located throughout the park.

Power UP installed the panels and KAI Build was the general contractor on the project.

KAI Enterprises is a national design and build firm providing delivery-oriented building solutions with a diverse portfolio of experience, in-house multi-discipline professionals, and expertise in both design and construction delivery. Founded in 1980, KAI has grown into one of the largest minority-owned firms in the AEC industry. To learn more about KAI, visit www.kai-db.com

As Illinois General Assembly Session’s End Looms, Fate of Capital Bill Unknown



Less than two hours before the official end of the Illinois General Assembly’s regular legislative session in Springfield, the answer as to whether both sides of the aisle would unite to fund a statewide capital improvements bill remained unclear.

“For years we’ve been close to getting horizontal or vertical construction (funding) passed, but it just didn’t happen,” said Dave Bender, president and CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois, an affiliate whose members include more than 240 engineering firms across Illinois members and nearly 14,000 engineering professionals. “Two years ago, it was down to the very last day (of session) and they had a deal on the table, but there was a blow-up on the floor, they gaveled, and the session was over. It has been 10 years since Illinois’ last mini-capital bill. The shelves at our (Illinois) DOT (Dept. of Transportation) are empty. We’ve got to pass a capital bill of some sort or risk losing our federal (funding) match,” he added.

As it stands, IDOT’s funding streams are comprised of 90 percent from the federal government and just 10 percent from the state. Bender says to bring Illinois’ highway infrastructure up to acceptable standards, it will take an additional $3 billion annually – $3 billion in addition to the $2 billion annually that is already being generated through a combination of gasoline tax revenues and increased vehicle registration fees. “Every penny generates about $65 million,” Bender said, “but Illinois is slipping because it didn’t index the gas tax (fee of 19 cents) over time (for inflation). If we had indexed it since 1990 – the last time it was increased – it would be 38 cents (per gallon of gasoline) by now. We need a minimum of 38 cents, double what it is and what it has remained for 29 years.”

Two potential outcomes were in the mix at press time, according to Bender: 1) A failsafe version of a capital improvement plan that would be limited to horizontal construction capital projects, meaning roads, bridges and mass transit infrastructure, but no vertical construction capital efforts such as improving and expanding state-owned facilities; and 2) A much more comprehensive capital plan that would include both horizontal and vertical construction projects.

“Vertical is the real problem in terms of creating a funding mechanism in contrast with horizontal-specific funding such as user fees that go directly toward transportation infrastructure needs,” Bender said Thursday. “When you walk inside a state of Illinois building and use the elevator, there’s no fee. For vertical, legislators are looking at options like sports gaming, the possibility of recreational marijuana, a parking garage fee, a minimal increase in the cigarette sales tax or a small increase in the liquor (sales) tax, a video streaming tax and more. Alternative ways to fund vertical construction will be challenging,” he added. “But to do nothing year after year is like watching your 100-year-old Victorian home’s mounting issues that you’ve learned are due to a crumbling foundation and opting to ignore the expensive underlying structural issues and choosing only to put new shingles on the roof.”

AGC Urges Industry to Garner Support From Users for Federal Highway Funding



The Associated General Contractors of America says Tuesday’s agreement between President Donald Trump and House and Senate Democrats to work together on a $2 trillion highways, roads, bridges and rail investment program builds the beginning of momentum that will need to accelerate to make a big, bold federal transportation initiative a reality.

“We’ve got a long road – pun intended – ahead of us before we reach agreement on an infrastructure spending bill,” said AGC Spokesman Brian Turmail, “but the fact that this bipartisan agreement has been forged amidst other pressing (non-transportation-related) issues on Capitol Hill is encouraging. Now we need to keep the momentum going toward creation and passage of a broad-based infrastructure package long before the current program expires in September 2020, because by then we’ll be in the middle of an election year.”

The AGC of America and its affiliates across the U.S. – including the AGC of Missouri – are advocating for a bill that does more than fund road, rail and bridge projects. The organization wants to see a solid workforce development component as well, according to Turmail.

“Yes, we’ve got to fix the Highway Trust Fund, which is based upon a user-pay system that is fundamentally American,” Turmail said, noting that the revenue that funds the fund – 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline purchased – hasn’t been updated since 1993. “But we think the infrastructure package also needs to include workforce development since creating jobs through these construction projects is paramount. What better opportunity to marry these investments in infrastructure than with the ability to create well-paying jobs?”

Construction industry members can help further development and passage of a new, multi-year federal transportation infrastructure funding bill, he said, by engaging support from individuals and organizations beyond the construction sphere.

“One of the things our AGC members and lobbyists hear all the time (from Congress) is, “’We hear from construction industry people all the time, but we also need to hear from others outside your industry such as those who use our highway system,’” Turmail said. “We’re asking AGC members to ask shippers, manufacturers, drivers and consumers – neighbors, church friends and others – to contact their federal elected officials and communicate the importance of maintaining our transportation system for all.”

The nation’s current multi-year transportation funding program, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in December 2015, authorizing $305 billion over fiscal years 2016-2020.

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