LePatner: It’s About Time for “Fix It First”

Fix it first. With these three simple words, in Tuesday night’s State of the Union, President Obama laid out a $50-billion dollar infrastructure plan that would focus on repairing the nation’s most in-need roads and bridges. It was music to the ears of author and infrastructure expert Barry LePatner.

“I was very pleased to hear about the President’s ‘Fix It First’ plan,” says LePatner, creator of www.SaveOurBridges.com and author of Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward (www.TooBigToFall.com). “As many policymakers, infrastructure experts and those in the construction industry know, I’ve been insisting we address our dire infrastructure needs since the I-35W bridge tragically collapsed in Minneapolis in August 2007.”

“I strongly encourage Congress to approve this spending. It is simply not true that there is no money for infrastructure investment. Over the years, politicians have channeled their allotted federal funds to build new projects that lead to ribbon-cutting ceremonies, publicity, and votes. Repair projects just haven’t been sexy enough.”

LePatner recently appeared on BBC News to address our Nation’s failing infrastructure and to discuss the Tappan Zee Bridge. In addition, LePatner was also called upon to speak on the Nation’s infrastructure on “Street Signs” hosted by Brian Sullivan on CNBC.

Click here to see a replay of LePatner’s appearance on BBC News.

Click here to see a replay of LePatner’s appearance on CNBC.

U.S. bridges can be repaired without impacting the deficit, insists LePatner. Repairing the top 2,000 bridges would cost an estimated $30-60 billion and would put 1.2 million construction workers to work. These workers, many of whom would be coming off of unemployment, would pay back 30 percent of their money earned in income taxes, and much of the rest would be pumped back into the economy through their consumer spending.

LePatner thinks Americans have a right to know just how bad the nation’s infrastructure has gotten. That’s why he recently created SaveOurBridges.com, a site he hopes will not only educate the public on the dangerous bridges in their communities but will help bring attention to an issue that has been continuously ignored by the nation’s policymakers. The site pinpoints the 7,980 bridges in the U.S. that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical, just as the I-35W Bridge was prior to its collapse. It also allows visitors to search by zip code or city and state to find the dangerous bridges in their area. “With ‘Fix It First,’ the President is taking a bold and necessary move,” says LePatner. “We can no longer treat our infrastructure as a second- or third-tier priority when it comes to funding. President Obama seems to understand and the rest of the nation needs to know that the risks we face are not limited to the dangers they cause to the traveling public. They include jeopardizing our country’s entire commercial sector as well as our national security network.”

“I hope the nation’s other leaders realize that they can’t wait any longer to provide the needed funding to make our bridges safe,” he concludes. “They must act now. Concrete, steel, and money aren’t the only things at stake. Lives are at stake. Nothing is more important than that.”

The Coming Economic Recovery

In Barry LePatner’s book, Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets, he wrote that our nation was poised to see tremendous economic growth and cited some impressive facts: the U.S. population would expand from 300 million to 400 million by the year 2045; between 2000 and 2030, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will more than double and see massive migration to the South and Southwest where we will build 100 billion square feet of new homes; that U.S. construction in the next thirty years would represent a boom of $25 trillion that would sweep along every sector of the U.S. economy. Of course, there are many who see the severe downturn in the economy over the past few years as an indication that our nation will not be returning to glory days of a roaring economy anytime soon nor see such heady news of a renewed economy likely to eventuate. LePatner could not disagree more.

So for those who want to see a real economic harbinger of things to come (now that spring flowers are budding along the streets and byways of our nation) here are a few statistics to buoy your own sense of optimism. They come courtesy of the Urban Land Institute and its survey of 38 leading real estate economists across the nation. The results show solid reasons for a rebounding economy. Keep in mind that real estate and the associated activity that it generates in the construction industry are true leading indicators of an economy emerging from a recession.

The ULI survey notes that over the next three years:

Commercial property transaction volume is expected to increase over 50%; Institutional real estate assets and REITS are expected to provide returns ranging from 8.5% to 11% annually; Vacancy rates are expected to drop in a range from 1.2 and 3.7 percentage points for office, retail and industrial properties while hotel occupancy rates are likely to rise; Housing starts will nearly double by 2014 and home prices will begin to rise in 2013 increasing by 3.5% in 2014.

The economists surveyed expect GDP to rise steadily from 2.5% in 2012 to 3% in 2013 and 3.2% in 2014. Unemployment is expected to fall to 6.9% by 2014 and we will see new job creation total 2 million in 2012, 2.5 million in 2013 and 2.75 million in 2014.

And, yes, there may be bumpy roads ahead and some doubts attributable to the European debt crisis, Middle East tensions, access to oil and climate change. But we need to remember that these same or similar world concerns have been around for many decades where the U.S. economy grew and prospered following every recession on record. Naysayers can join in against these thoughts, but it is hard to ignore the pent up demand of our economy where corporations, lean and mean from the recession and flush with monstrous amounts of cash on hand, are not going to continue to grow or, at the expense of other well-heeled competitors, take on the characteristics of the dinosaur and die off unnecessarily.

As always, we welcome comments.

LePatner Op Ed: Keep Public Projects on Budget

As the new year kicks off, signs that our national and state leaders are beginning to finally recognize the job-creating potential that rests with infrastructure investment are rife. No longer are we seeing politicians trying to gain recognition by cancelling billion dollar bridge, road or rail projects, claiming that they will increase the deficit — even as they destroyed tens of thousands of good-paying several year long jobs. As evidence that those tactics were self-defeating see the recall petitions running through the states of Wisconsin and Indiana and the fact that the Federal government recently forced the State of New Jersey to refund over $275 million for outlays that were part of the planning and design for the now-cancelled ARC tunnel project under the Hudson River.

Attention is also being paid to New York State where Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State speech announced a $15 billion infrastructure program that included the proposed commencement of construction for a much-needed new Tappan Zee Bridge. Well, the problem here is that the still under construction Interstate 287 in Westchester County that connects Connecticut to the Tappan Zee Bridge has had the terrible misfortune of being $78 million over budget and unaccountably equates to about $70 million a mile for its construction.

So how will New York State even begin to approach construction for what undoubtedly become a $10 – $20 billion effort to replace the structurally deficient and fracture critical Tappan Zee that each year costs the state $100 million to merely keep from falling into the Hudson River becoming the next version of the doomed I-35W that collapsed in Minneapolis in August 2007?

Barry LePatner’s recent Op Ed piece in Newsday provides some serious suggestions that Governor Cuomo should heed before he starts down the slippery slope of turning so much money over to the highly inefficient and often corrupt construction industry. As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments.

http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/lepatner-keep-public-projects-on-budget-1.3462336

The Seattle Times Reviews "Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward"

Mike Lindblom, transportation writer for “The Seattle Times,” recently wrote on article on Barry LePatner’s new book “Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward”. The article, entitled “‘Too Big to Fall:’ the hazardous health of America’s roads and bridges“ highlight’s the nation’s denial regarding the state of its infrastructure, noting “Elected officials crave the fame of cutting the ribbon on a new highway, rather than maintaining an old bridge.”

Linblom’s article notes that some politicians have awakened to the crisis, which makes "'Too Big to Fall’ a timely book.” In the mean time while the crumbling continues with America’s infrastructure, the article endorses LePatner’s urging of states to install strain gauges, weight scales, cameras and corrosion sensors to gather bridge data around the clock, instead of trusting sporadic visual inspections.

For his Seattle readers, Lindblom notes that even in the “enlightened Washington state,” only about $1.1 billion of the $9 billion 2011-12 transportation budget goes directly to highway preservation or maintenance.” Lindblom advises, “Washington state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond suggests a quota for maintenance in the next round of Washington state transportation taxes — even if fewer new lanes are built. Until then, this book offers professional and armchair engineers a wealth of history to place future road failures in perspective.”

Mr. Lindblom’s article is another example of the need for spreading the word and sounding the alarm regarding the nation’s failing infrastructure. The fear of cost overruns should not doom infrastructure projects, where there exists a methodology to eliminate these concerns. The LePatner C³ Model allows owners to regain control of their projects and re-balance their relationship with the contractor by obtaining, for the first time, true complete-price contracts with those building their projects.

Is the Tappan Zee Bridge "Too Big to Fall"?

The alarming story told by Barry B. LePatner in his new book, Too Big to Fall, is making the rounds. In a recent article in the New York Post, LePatner gave an interview that resulted in a full page article entitled “Bridge of Size: Tappan Zee, like many other US bridges, is falling down.”

The article uses the story of the quite perilous state of the Tappan Zee Bridge, over which 140,000 vehicles cross the Hudson River each day, to illustrate the perilous situation that our nation's infrastructure faces. Citing statistics from Too Big to Fall, the article, written by Lois Weiss, relates to the 7,980 bridges in the nation that are both structurally deficient as well as fracture critical. Fracture critical bridges are vulnerable to collapse if even one critical structural member fails, a possibility made even more likely when these bridges are subject to corrosion and deterioration due to deferred maintenance.

The Tappan Zee may be replaced for an estimated $16 billion (if not more due to unwarranted cost overruns that plague the construction industry) if the funding can be found. However, finding funding is highly unlikely in these budget deficit days. This exposes millions of travelers annually over that bridge to face a very dangerous prospect indeed.

LePatner Gives Speech at Brookings Institution

Barry LePatner gave a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. on the alarming state of the nation's infrastructure before an influential group of transportation and infrastructure officials and lobbyists, including former Deputy Secretary of Transportation, the head of AASHTO, the managing director of the ASCE, the Executive Director of the Transportation Research Board, and the Director of the Carnegie Endowment as well as leaders from ULI and reporters from Bloomberg News. Highlighting findings and research from his recently published book, Too Big To Fall: America's Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward, LePatner discussed at length the importance of obtaining true complete-price contracts for infrastructure projects. Critical issues related to funding were raised and discussed during the Q&A.

According to Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow of the Metropolitan Planning Program at the Brookings Institution and author of a foreward to Too Big To Fall, LePatner's speech was well-received and was "as if it given by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell with statistics." LePatner distributed copies of the firm's LePatner C3 Model" whitepaper and his new analysis of the NTSB Report on the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis.

Bloomberg News and other bloggers covered the event.

Audio excerpts of Barry's speech will be posted soon.

Barry LePatner interviewed on REFI Radio

Hear Barry LePatner discuss the critical infrastructure issues he details in his new book, Too Big To Fall. In this forty minute interview, he relates the realities of our nation's inefficient construction industry, as discussed in his previous book Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets, to the inability of our political leaders to properly finance proactive maintenance on our nation's deteriorating roadways, bridges, and other crucial infrastructure. We invite you to take the time to listen and then forward on to friends and others interested in these issues. Listen here.

LePatner Celebrates 30th Anniversary

To celebrate, we threw ourselves a nice party at the Central Park Boathouse for our clients, colleagues and friends. Thanks all for your support and confidence over the years. We will continue our tradition of providing industry-leading counsel, project management, and now, integrity compliance services in the years ahead. Read our 30th Anniversary LePatner Report for party photos, announcements and reflections on the firm's history and future.

Too Big To Fall is published

Barry LePatner's latest book, Too Big To Fall: America's Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward (Foster Publishing in association with the University Press of New England) is now available at Amazon.com, and will be available in bookstores by early November. For the first time, it provides a comprehensive overview of the shocking state of the nation's infrastructure and what must be done to fix it. For a more detailed description of the book and information on how to contact Barry LePatner for media appearances or presentations, visit the Too Big To Fall website or the UPNE website.

LePatner in "The Real Deal"

Sepember 10, 2010

Two recent articles in The Real Deal confirm from construction industry leaders what we've been telling our clients all along: that contractors systematically underbid to get a project only to run the costs up after they've signed the agreement. It's no surprise that this practice is more prevalent than ever in this tough economy and weak construction environment. Link to "Lowballs Lead to Strikeouts" and "Hard Times for Hard Hats."

But we are pioneering a different way: the LePatner C3™ Model. Read about it here.

TBTF reviewed in "Finance & Commerce"

According to Bill Clements of Finance & Commerce, Barry LePatner's soon-to-be-published book belongs in the horror genre. He writes, The title, Too Big to Fall: America's Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward, isn't exactly horror-inducing, but what it tells us is: Some 7,980 bridges are considered as perilous as the I-35W bridge was before it collapsed, killing 13 and injuring 145.

Welcome to The LePatner Blog

Uncategorized | January 12, 2010 by Tadhg O'Connor | Comments Off { Edit } Welcome to the LePatner Blog. Its purpose is to keep our clients, friends and colleagues informed on construction, real estate, and business matters of interest. We will post updates on a regular basis. We will also link articles and information that may be useful in understanding and anticipating real estate and construction trends, risks, concerns and strategic planning.

Our focus and expertise is guarding against construction cost overruns and ensuring that projects are built on time and on budget. Often times, projects can soar 20, 30, 50% or more over budget, and we see this reported regularly in local and national publications. Our blog links to these publications, highlights the fundamental flaws in the construction process and paves the way for change during times that demand cost certainty in capital construction projects.

If you would like to receive updates when new posts are added, please click the link to “Follow Us” at the bottom of the page. Also, follow LePatner on Linkedin for additional information.