the newsletter of tbd consultants - edition 16, 4th qtr 2009

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In this Edition

Rainhill Trials' 180th
Heavy & Light Rail
Cal High Speed Rail
Light at End of Tunnel

Construction Management Specialists
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San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 981-9430
4361 35th Street
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 550-1187


Rainhill Trials' 180th
Geoff Canham, Editor

It will be 180th anniversary in October of the Rainhill Trials, and in this article we take a quick look at this landmark event in the history of the railroads.


Heavy & Light Rail

Our cities have, and continue to be, shaped by light rail transit systems and heavy rail metro systems. Here we look at what the fundamental difference is between light and heavy rail systems.


California High Speed Rail

High Speed Rail is coming to California at last! In this article we take a look at where we are in the project, and at what is planned.


Light at the End of the Tunnel?

We are seeing a fairly consistent upward trend in the stock market, and there are increasing signs that the recession is technically drawing to an end. But what does that mean for the construction industry?

Our bid index doesn’t show too many encouraging signs at present:

To get a gauge on how things might progress, we looked back to this newsletter’s predecessor, the Hanscomb News, and observed how the recession of the 1990’s progressed. That recession officially started in July 1990 and lasted for 8 months, but the effects on the construction market lasted a lot longer.

The current recession officially started in December 2007, and might well be stated as having ended around September 2009 by the time NBER gets around to declaring it over, so that means that the length of this recession will have been far longer than that of the 90’s, but let us ignore that for now.

The first edition of the Hanscomb News came out in September 1990, soon after the start of the 90’s recession, and it was reporting about a very competitive bidding market. The equivalent date in this recession would be February 2008, but this time around the general construction bidding market was not being hit at that point, although the housing sector certainly was.

By April 1991 it was being said that the competitive but errant bidding market of 1990 had turned into a quest for survival amongst contractors/subcontractors. Counting from the start of the two recessions, the equivalent date in this one would be August 2008, but it was early to mid-2009 that we were seeing the equivalent conditions.

In December 1992 the Hanscomb News was still reporting that the market continues to be depressed, perpetuating the fiercely competitive bidding market. The equivalent date here would be May 2010.

By November 1993 it was being reported that recovery of the construction market was proceeding at a snail’s pace. That would be April 2011 counting from the start of this recession.

It wasn’t until January 1996 that we were writing about steel prices rising as the construction industry comes out of recession. The equivalent date here would be June 2013. So if you think you are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel now, unfortunately it is probably only the headlights of a train coming at you. But it is possible the train will get us back into the California sunshine a bit sooner than we otherwise would.



Design consultant: Katie Levine of Vallance, Inc.