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About Heavy Construction
Heavy construction is the industry and art of building the structures that civilization relies on - and by which civilization can be judged. These include the bridges, roads, dams, pipelines, ports, stadiums and public buildings that we depend on every day.
Some of these structures - like the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge - stand today as icons of our ability to do what was thought to impossible, to build the unbuildable in the service of mankind.
Heavy construction is also an economic engine that has driven governments and people through times as tough as the Great Depression. Generations of leaders have seen the wisdom of building their way out of recessions and economic downturns. Public works spending spurs employment, stimulates investment, improves private economic performance, bolsters the economy in the short term and positions us for long-term growth. For example, Caltrans estimates that the East Span project supports more than 67,000 jobs and provides an $8 billion economic stimulus to the California economy.
Here in California, construction of all types is helping invigorate the economy by dint of the sheer number of jobs it supports - more than 772,000 as of March 2003. Construction is the state's largest goods-producing industry and also its fourth-largest employer, yet it has the second-largest payroll at $36 billion, second only to the electronics industry. Today, roughly one out of every seven new jobs in California is in the construction industry.
Heavy construction alone provides a giant economic boost. For example, every dollar invested in the highway system yields $5.60 in economic benefits. According to the Federal Highway Administration, every $1 billion in highway construction creates 42,000 jobs.
Heavy construction is also the business of making life safer. Highway investments over the last 40 years have produced a 2-for-1 health return by preventing 1,400 deaths and 50,000 injuries for every $1 billion invested, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. Widening a lane by one foot can reduce traffic accidents by 12 percent. Widening two feet reduces accidents by 23 percent. Widening a shoulder has been found to reduce fatal accidents by 21 percent. Medians for traffic separation can reduce fatalities by 71 percent.
Repairs and upgrades to our water supply and delivery systems improve the reliability and quality of the water we get in our homes and businesses. Expansion and updating of our airports makes air travel safer and more efficient. Capital investment in our electrical utilities helps assure us that our homes and work places have the power they need.
Heavy construction is the business of improving our quality of life. Road and mass transit upgrades help us get to work faster and in a better frame of mind, and home to our families quicker at the end of the day. The groundwork heavy construction workers do for private residential and commercial development provides the foundation for the neighborhoods we choose to live and shop in.
Today, more than ever, California needs the heavy construction industry. Everywhere are signs of an aging state. California leads the nation in highway congestion and poor pavement conditions. Most of our bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete. Some of our towns have water mains that are more than a century old. Our drinking water and wastewater facilities need modernization. Some of our cities have turn-of-the-century brick sewers that have been in service far longer than designed for. Our airports need more runways and bigger terminals. Our flood control systems need shoring up. Today California faces a multibillion shortfall in its infrastructure investment. Our population, now 34 million and climbing, is straining its infrastructure. And the health of that infrastructure directly affects our economic stability.
In order for California to compete in today's global economy, businesses need to move goods quickly. Trucking operations must have free-flowing, well-maintained highways. Shipping companies need deep-water channels and suitable docking facilities. Airports need expansion to meet increases in both passengers and cargo.
The stakes for us, and for future generations, are enormous. The quality of life we enjoy and take for granted today was in large part given to us by generations of builders who met challenges with vision, ingenuity and hard work. Let us ensure that our grandchildren will say the same of us.