Skilled Construction Trades and Respected Contractors
Building Wisconsin Together ®
Welcome to Construction Business Group's Industry Updates. This monthly e-newsletter will help us communicate the important initiatives that we have underway and relevant updates on issues that impact Wisconsin's construction industry.  
Message from Executive Director Robb Kahl
Long-Term Funding Solution for Failing Bridges Remains Illusive
Infrastructure is one of those topics that people tend to ignore. We pay little attention to the roads, bridges and public buildings we use every day. Elected officials know, or should know, that aging highways and bridges in the United States are in dire need of attention, but the price tag is politically unattractive.

Even when catastrophic incidents occur, media and public attention are short-lived. On January 28, 2022, a bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh just hours before President Biden was scheduled to give a speech on (ironically) infrastructure. Within a few days, the event all but forgotten unless you were one of the unlucky Pittsburgh residents that had to find an alternative route for daily travel. 

Even when mass casualties occur little changes. Examples include: I35 in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2007; Big Bayou Canot Bridge in Mobile, Alabama in 1993; Cypress Street Viaduct in Oakland, California in 1989; Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida in 1980; and Silver Bridge between Point Pleasant, West Virginia and Gallipolis, Ohio in 1967. All of these disasters involved some element of design or structural failure, even if some had contributing causes, e.g., a barge hitting a support column.
The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) recently released its 2022 Bridge Report, and the findings are not good. ARTBA’s key highlights from the report are as follows:

  • 224,000 bridges (36% of all U.S. bridges) need repair work;
  • 78,777 bridges should be replaced; and
  • 43,500 bridges are classified as structurally deficient.

In Wisconsin, nearly 7% of all bridges are classified as structurally deficient, which means there are 987 bridges in Wisconsin that pose a safety risk to the public. ARTBA identified the worst 250 bridges in the United States, and Milwaukee is home to two of those bridges, with an average of 239,000 vehicles crossing those two bridges every day.

The type of repair work needed to repair all 224,000 bridges in the United States varies. 55% of the bridges require total replacement or rehabilitation, and another 22% need structural work.
While the overall percentage of structurally deficient bridges has declined slightly from 2017 to 2021, ARTBA estimated that at the current pace it would take nearly 30 years to repair all of the structurally deficient bridges in the Unites States. Another I35 bridge collapse is inevitable at the current pace of funding for repair.

However, there is some good news to share. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Jobs Act) signed by President Biden last fall provides states with additional resources to make long overdue infrastructure improvements, including bridge repairs. The United States Department of Transportation announced last month that it would disburse more than $27.5 billion to states for bridge repairs over the next five years. Wisconsin is expected to get $225 million ($45 million a year) in new funding under the Jobs Act for bridges.

This one-time funding boost, however, is not enough. ARTBA estimated it would cost $260 billion to repair the 224,000 bridges in need of attention in the United States. The Jobs Act gets us only 10% of the way there. What we need is a long-term, sustainable increase in funding so that states can plan for and tackle the backlog of projects. Please keep pushing your elected officials to do the right thing for public safety and properly fund bridge repair.
From the News Stand
NYC DA Bragg Announces Indictment in $20M Off-the-Books Compensation Scheme
Excerpts from the press release:

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr., today announced the indictment of four interior construction companies, their owners, and a manager, for a conspiracy to evade more than $1.7 million in workers’ compensation insurance premiums over five years by creating a $20 million, off-the-books, cash payroll. As alleged, SOLOMON FEDER, 35, CHAIM LEIFER, 43, their companies BIG APPLE DESIGNERS, INC., and VELOCITY FRAMERS USA, INC., and manager MOSHE “MOSES” WEINBERGER, 31, colluded with CARLOS SANTANDER, 46, and others, to issue checks made payable to SANTANDER’s two companies, CIS ENTERPRISES CORP and CIS CONSTRUCTION LLC. SANTANDER then cashed the checks at commercial check cashing businesses, and paid BIG APPLE and VELOCITY workers with envelopes of cash – enabling the companies to underreport their true payrolls to the New York State Insurance Fund (“NYSIF”), and avoid paying required premiums.
According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, FEDER and LEIFER owned interior construction companies BIG APPLE and VELOCITY FRAMERS, and employed WEINBERGER to manage the companies’ day-to-day operations. From January 2016 to December 2020, they colluded with SANTANDER and others to issue checks made payable to SANTANDER’s companies. SANTANDER then cashed those checks – totaling approximately $20 million – at a commercial check cashing business. SANTANDER and others would pay BIG APPLE and VELOCITY workers with envelopes of cash handed out at construction sites, including the site of a new 13-story residential building in Downtown Brooklyn, and other locations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.
Each year, the companies submitted false information to NYSIF during their mandatory audits, which underreported their true payrolls by millions of dollars. In total, the off-the-books compensation scheme enabled the defendants to evade more than $1.7 million in workers’ compensation premiums.
Wisconsin Jobs And Energy Coalition: Line 5 pipeline project supporters outnumber opponents 3-to-1 according to Wisconsin DNR comments
According to documents recently released by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), through the first 45 days of the public comment period, supporters of the Enbridge Line 5 relocation project in northern Wisconsin have submitted over 3,800 written comments in support of the project. At the same time, those opposed to the project submitted approximately 1,200 written comments – many of which were not able to be verified as originating from Wisconsin residents.

“Wisconsinites are speaking loud and clear that they want access to reliable and affordable energy to heat their homes and power their vehicles,” said Corey Gall, President of the Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association. “The Line 5 relocation project will ensure access to that energy while at the same time support more than 1,000 jobs in Wisconsin and inject $135 million into the state’s economy. That’s the very definition of a win-win scenario.”
Report Highlights Key Upcoming Projects
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) this week provided the Transportation Projects Commission (TPC) a status report on the Majors and Southeast Freeway Megaprojects programs -- providing an update on key upcoming projects across the state:
I-41 Expansion: Widening of 23 miles between STH 96 in Appleton and CTH F in DePere was approved by the Federal Highway Administration in November 2021 and is estimated at $1.063 billion. Expansion will occur largely in the existing median and includes work at 10 interchanges and 15 grade separations. An FY 2024 letting is scheduled for the weigh facility and State Patrol headquarters, with the first road construction letting scheduled for FY 2025.
I-43 Expansion: Reconstruction of 14 miles between Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee and STH 60 in Grafton with an additional two travel lanes is currently $20 million under estimate, thanks to a competitive transportation construction industry. Significant construction lettings are scheduled for FY 2023.
I-39/90/94 Wisconsin River Bridges: The estimated $141 million replacement of the existing structures in Columbia County with three 12-foot lanes and wide shoulders in each direction is scheduled for a single letting in FY 2024.
USH 51 Stoughton to McFarland: This $174 million project is largely a replace-in-kind with safety improvements involving left- and right-turn lanes at low-volume intersections and roundabouts at several high-volume intersections. A 1.4-mile section on the west side of Stoughton will be expanded to four lanes. WisDOT has divided the project into a package of lettings between FYs 2024-29 to better accommodate the needs of the communities.
USH 53 La Crosse Corridor: This project was initially enumerated in 1997 but has been dormant because of lack of community consensus. The TPC in December 2021 approved WisDOT's request to study new alternatives to the major north-south routes (USH 53, STHs 16 & 35) in the corridor that address congestion and safety. Because the study is ongoing and there is no preferred alternative, a cost estimate is not yet available.
I-94 East-West Corridor: This 3.5-mile section between the Marquette and Zoo interchanges was enumerated in the 2021-23 state budget and is currently undergoing a Supplemental EIS so WisDOT can gain more public input and study the alternatives between the current 6-lane and 8-lane modernization options. Estimated cost between these two alternatives is $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.
Study Projects: WisDOT has invested an additional $18 million in two studies of potential Major Highway Projects -- $15 million for I-39/90 between Madison and Wisconsin Dells and $3 million for USH 51 between the Beltline and STH 19 in the Madison area.
Other Large Bridge Projects: While not covered in the report, WisDOT is also planning for three large bridge projects: 1) Rehabilitation of the I-794 Lake Arterial structures, likely to occur under the High Cost Bridge Program for projects exceeding $150 million; 2) Replacement of the I-535 Blatnik Bridge between Superior and Duluth, MN., with Minnesota DOT being the lead agency but both states sharing the cost; and 3) The STH 82 bridge over the Mississippi River just south of DeSoto to Lansing, Ia.
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