Have a Coke (Battery) or Two

Just when you thought that the steel industry was in deep freeze again comes word of a thaw. The global recession has put a big dent in the business but there is apparently some boost in demand for coke or the industry sees it as a good time to capitalize its coke production assets.

Arcelormittal is beginning the contracting for a $50 million re-opening and upgrade of the former Koppers coke plant in Monessen. Graycor is rumored to have been awarded the quencher with contracts for the remaining work pending.

USSteel is reportedly ready to commit the resources needed to complete the modernization/replacement of the Battery D at the Clairton works. The company completed the construction of the $500 million Battery C last year. No word on if an EPC firm has been contracted or when construction might start.

In the public construction arena, the lingering influence of the Rendell administration’s east-oriented capital programs is still being felt in the bidding market. The distribution of professional service RFP’s has been more balanced since Gov. Corbett took office but the lag time for design and the more restricted flow of projects in the pipeline means that what is out to bid now reflects the bias to the east. A check of the current bidding opportunities at DGS shows that the project listed that is furthest west is a roof replacement in the Mechanicsburg area.

It’s fortunate then that there is one large public construction project out to bid now in western PA, the $50 million new combined junior/senior high school for Armstrong Co. School District. The history of this project is not very encouraging, however, since a similar project has been on the boards of several architects since the late 1970’s. Uncertainty about whether there will be enough support from citizens to back the board’s decision to proceed doesn’t seem to be dampening interest. As of this morning 13 contractors were reported pursuing the estimated $25 million general package.

A project that should be moving ahead later this spring is the 1,000 Luna parking garage that is the next piece in the UPMC Shadyside Hospital master plan. The garage should be somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million and will help ease parking and congestion at the hospital. The garage was previously part of the Center for Innovative Science project that was awarded to Turner Construction but a select group of contractors will be asked to bid instead.

Looking at the broader picture a few weeks into 2013, there is continued improving economic news and growing anecdotal evidence that the pipeline of work is building. Hiring has picked up at engineering and architectural firms, which have been responding to noticeably more RFP’s since Oct/Nov of last year. Very little suggests that a surge is set to occur that will help build contractor backlogs during the next 90 days or so but unless macroeconomic factors push owners/developers to put projects on hold in the spring, the second half of 2013 should see a significant increase in construction.

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