monday, march 17, 2014

The North Tarrant Express

When work started on the $2.5 billion North Tarrant Express in 2009 the expectation was the job would take until mid-2015 to complete. The developers recently announced the work would likely be done by this Christmas.

The project, developed by NTE Mobility Partners and built by Bluebonnet Contractors, is an overhaul of Loop 820 and Texas 121/183, also referred to as Airport Freeway. The job involves an overhaul of the existing lanes and the addition of managed toll lanes.

By the time work is done, TxDOT plans to have awarded a similar upgrade project on the rest of SH 183 into Dallas County.

My story on the project, "Work On North Tarrant Express To Finish Six Months Early," is online at Engineering News-Record Texas & Louisiana edition.

posted by kleph @ 1:00 pm | comments

friday, february 28, 2014

Owner, Contractor Agreement Ends Panama Canal Expansion Crisis

After two months of rancorous disagreement the two sides of the dispute that brought the $5.2 billion Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion to a standstill have reached an accord.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and the contractor building the locks portion of the project, Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC, reached an agreement late Feb. 27 that will allow the ambitious project to be completed by Dec. 2015.

Cost overruns alleged by GUPC to be $1.6 billion will be evaluated by a three-step arbitration process but the contractor will be allowed an extended moratorium on repaying lines of credit if certain conditions are met.

My story, Panama Canal Owner and Contractors Agree to Final Cost, Schedule Terms, is now on ENR.com and another, Billion dollar Panama Canal locks stand off resolved, is at New Civil Engineer.

posted by kleph @ 11:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, february 20, 2014

Panama Canal Expansion Work Resumes

A two-week work stoppage on the Panama Canal's $5.2 billion third lane expansion was ended on Feb. 20 when the two sides of the cost dispute agreed to a tentative accord on the project.

The contractor building the locks portion of the project, Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC, halted work on Feb. 4 demanding pay for an alleged $1.6 billion in cost overruns it blames on the owner, The Panama Canal Authority (ACP). The two sides will continue to negotiate over those issues as workers return to the jobsite.

My story, Work Resumes on Panama Canal Under Partial Pact, is now on ENR.com and another, Dispute-hit Panama Canal expansion work resumes, is at New Civil Engineer.

posted by kleph @ 11:00 am | 0 comments

friday, february 07, 2014

Interview with Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano

Earlier this week I had an extended one-on-one interview with Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Administrator Jorge Quijano. He discussed in some detail the authority's current situation in regards to the work stoppage by the contractor building the locks portion of the $5.2 billion Third Lane Expansion, Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC).

While the ACP still holds out a chance for an agreement between the two parties, Quijano said the authority feels it has grounds to break the contract with GUPC and plans to reach out to subcontractors to finish the final third of the project. The decision could come in days. He also discussed the importance of the gates for the locks which have been built but are still awaiting delivery in Italy.

My interview, Exclusive Interview: Panama Canal Project Won't Be Held Hostage By Contractor Shutdown, is now on ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

wednesday, february 05, 2014

Panama Canal Expansion Work Stops

After weeks of negotiations between the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and the contractor building the new locks, Grupo Unidos Por el Canal(GUPC), work came to a stop Wednesday when an agreement could not be reached.

While both sides said they remained opened to the possibility of continuing negotiations, neither backed down on their demands on how to meet the reported $1.6 billion in cost overruns on the project. GUPC accused the ACP of pushing the project "to the brink of failure" and the authority responded calling the contractor's demands "blackmail."

My story on the state of the standoff, Panama Canal Work Halts As Cost Dispute Talks Break Down, is in the current issue of Engineering News-Record. A similar piece, Panama Canal expansion contractor downs tools, appears in New Civil Engineer magazine.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

wednesday, february 05, 2014

The Portugues Dam

The Portugues Dam in Puerto Rico was concieved in the 1940s as a way to protect the municipality of Ponce from deadly mountain floods. Approved in 1970 work on the project continued in a stop-start manner for the next several decades.

This week the 200-foot-tall structure was formally completed. It is the first single-centered, roller compacted concrete, thick-arch dam, ever attempted by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The design was a result of construction the foundations on the original a three-centered double-curvature thin-arch dam.

My story on the project, Innovative Roller Compacted Concrete Dam Opens in Puerto Rico, is now posted at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

tuesday, january 21, 2014

Panama Canal Expansion Cost Overruns Negotiations

After a week of surprisingly public recriminations, The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and the contractor building the new locks, Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC) began meetings aimed at resolving the dispute that threatens to derail the $5.2 billion expansion to the historic waterway.

While the contractor's Jan. 20 deadline to stop work passed without a halt to the project, GUPC announced it had pushed back the date to Jan. 31. ACP officials noted that work on the project has dropped to less than a third of normal.

My story on the state of the standoff, Canal Work Won't Shut Down, But Cost Battle Continues, is in the current issue of Engineering News-Record. A similar piece, Panama contractors backtrack on threat to down tools, appears in New Civil Engineer magazine.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

monday, january 13, 2014

The Panama Canal Cost Overruns Dispute

In late December, the consortium building the locks for the $5.2 billion Panama Canal Expansion notified the canal authority that cost overruns had reached $1.63 billion and they intended to stop work on Jan. 20 without the funds.

Since then the two sides have been embroiled in an increasingly public row over the issue as the dealine to shutdown grows closer. The Panama Canal Authority argues the contractor must use a three-step arbitration process for claims but Grupo Unidos Por el Canal argues the problems are the authorities fault and they need the money to continue.

I have been covering this ongoing story for several news outlets. My first story on the matter, Panama Canal Teams Negotiate Cost Overrun Dispute, appeared on Jan. 6 in Engineering News-Record. That was followed days later on ENR.com with an update on the situation, Two Sides in Panama Canal Cost Dispute Harden Their Positions. Finally, the most recent issue the UK construcion magazine New Civil Engineer has my latest piece on the controversy, Panama Canal contractor threatens to down tools.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

monday, december 30, 2013

Texas Transportation Public Private Partnerships

The Dallas/Fort Worth area is in a highway construction boom. Currently there are $9.5 billion worth of highway construction going on in the North Texas region funded using public private partnerships -- more than half of such projects statewide. The Texas Department of Transportation has increasingly turned to P3s as a way to bridge the state's growing infrastructure gap (estimated at more than $4 billion and growing).

A rapidly growing population has increased road needs but more fuel-efficent vehicles has evaporated funds. The state's sophisticated P3 system that involves a mix of design/build projects as well as an ambitous managed lanes initative provides a means to leverage existing funds and complete the needed roadways.

My cover story on the trend, P3s Fuel Construction of Lone Star Lanes, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

monday, december 16, 2013

The Dallas Horseshoe Project

The confluence of interstates 30 and 35E on the southern edge of Dallas' downtown is one of the most intimidating stretches of road in the state. More than 450,000 vechiles pass through the five-mile corridor each weekday earning it the moniker, "the Mixmaster."

Work to revitalize this section of roadway and construct a series of new bridges extending from it over the Trinity River basin began this month. Pegasus Link Constructors LLC, a consortium comprised of Flour Enterprises and Balfour Beatty, has begun construction of bridge pilings and frontage roads. The design-build project is scheduled for completion in 2017.

My story on the project, Horseshoe Project Progresses in Dallas, is posted in this week's Texas & Louisiana edition of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 2:00 pm | 0 comments

monday, december 16, 2013

Texas & Louisiana 2013 Best Projects

Each year, Engineering News-Record presents its Best Projects awards to recognize outstanding construction achievements the year prior. In addition to the global and national awards, the most innovative and creative projects in each region is honored as well.

This year I was tasked to write synopses of several projects in the Texas & Louisiana region:

Best Office/Retail/Mixed-Use Developments: BBVA Compass Plaza
Best Airport/Transit: Consolidated Rental Car Facility
Best Cultural/Worship: First Baptist Church of Dallas read more

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, december 04, 2013

Crane Sweep Ordered at Brazil World Cup Stadium

Investigators have begun the painstaking process of examining the fatal collapse of a massive crawler crane at on a $360 million soccer stadium project in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The crane was moving a 420 ton part of the roof when it fell on Nov. 27 killing two workers.

Government officials ordered all the cranes working on the Corinthian's Stadium to be idled until a review of the procedures and the equipment itself can be evaluated. Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction firm handling the job, said it was complying with the order and work on the rest of the job continued on Dec. 2.

My story on the incident, Crane Sweep Ordered at Brazil World Cup Stadium, is posted in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

tuesday, december 03, 2013

Brazil's Refinery Boom

Over the past six years, Brazil has struggled to capitalize the vast pre-salt oil fields off the coast near Rio de Janeiro. These efforts have gained steam over the last year but the progress has presented the South American country with another problem -- refining capacity.

The country has become a crude oil exporter but is forced to import gas and diesel due to shortfalls in refining capacity. Several long-delayed projects are slated to be finished soon but fall far short of expected demand.

The Brazilian government has pledged to construct several new plants that will cost tens of billions of dollars and increase refining capacity by more than a million barrels per day. It remains to be seen if they will come online soon enough.

My post on the situation, Brazil's Refinery Boom, now up at my ENR.com blog, Points South.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, november 27, 2013

Brazilian Stadium Collapse

A crane carrying a 420 ton section of roof for a soccer stadium under construction in São Paulo, Brazil collapsed Wednesday afternoon killing two workers. The Liebherr crawler crane was putting the final roof section of Arena Corinthians in place when the accident occurred.

Sport Club Corinthians Paulista owns the $360 million stadium and construction is being handled by the Brazilian firm Odebrecht. It is one of a dozen stadiums being built across Brazil in anticipation of the World Cup next year and was slated to host the opening match on June 12. It is not clear if the accident will delay the stadium's completion.

My story on the incident, Brazil Crane Collapse Scene Is 'Highly Unusual,' Expert Says, is posted in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 5:00 pm | 0 comments

thursday, november 21, 2013

The LBJ Express Project

The $2.7 billion Interstate-635 upgrade, known as the LBJExpress, is one of the largest and most ambitious road improvement projects in Texas. Next month, the first 3.2 mile section of the roadway will open, debuting the TEXpress managed lane system.

The project, which is slated for completion in 2016, is a public private partnership between TxDOT and LBJ Infrastructure group. Trinity Infrastructure is the contractor on the job. The work will now focus on the excavation of approximately 4 million cubic yards of material to create the managed lanes which will run below the general use lanes along the next section of the project.

My story on the project, LBJ Express Work Progresses to Excavation Phase, is posted in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

wednesday, november 20, 2013

Modular Bridges in Peru

Bridges are a critical component of the roadways that cross the Andean highlands yet many of these spans are modular structures which sometimes date back to World War II. In the past few years, the Peruvian government has been working with the US firm, Acrow Bridge, to replace many of these outdated structures.

The current initiative calls for the replacement of more than 1,000 existing modular bridges across the country's mountain roads. While approximately 250 permanent bridges are slated to be constructed, the rest will be new modular bridges made by the US firm.

My story on the program, U.S. Temporary Spans Spread Throughout Peru, is posted in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

tuesday, november 12, 2013

The Hydrocarbon Market and the Panama Canal Expansion

Just a few years ago, the most valuable commodity sent through the Panama Canal was oil. But a lot has changed since then. The global economic downturn and the hydrocarbon boom in the United States has dramatically transformed the international commodity market.

In two years, when the Panama Canal $5.2 billion expansion is complete, many experts predict that Liquefied Natural Gas will be the key commodity transiting the historic waterway. Already export terminals are underway in US and demand from East Asia is at a fever pitch.

My story on the emerging issue, The Hydrocarbon Market and the Panama Canal Expansion, is posted on my Engineering News-Record blog, Points South.

posted by kleph @ 11:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, november 06, 2013

Marijuana Farms and California Water Policy

As the move to legalize marijuana gains momentum nationally, government officials have already begun to create policies to handle the trend. While much of the focus has been on the distribution and sale of the drug, states like California are grappling with issues related to the booming industry of growing the plant -- particularly the environmental impact.

Several water boards in California have launched initiatives for enforcing regulations concerning water quality and stream diversion among cultivators of the plant. State officials say the next step is to create legislation to formally address the issue.

My story on the emerging issue, In California, Inspection of Marijuana Farms Moves Out of the Weeds, is in this week's Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 11:00 am | 0 comments

tuesday, october 15, 2013

Schuff Steel in Panama

The largest steel fabrication and erection company in the U.S., Schuff International, has expanded its operations to Panama and Latin America over the past few years. The Phoenix-based firm built the first steel high-rise structure in the country in 2008 (pictured) and have since been involved in several high-profile construction projects.

In 2011, the company formed Schuff Hopsa Engineering with a Panamanian firm which owns the country's largest steel fabrication plant located in Chilibre. Schuff was also instrumental for Houston-based engineering firm Walter P Moore entering the Panamanian market as well.

My story, Schuff Makes Major Moves To Expand Steel Work in Panama, is in this week's Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

friday, october 11, 2013

I-35Express Project

An ambitious $1.4 billion effort to upgrade and expand the 28-mile stretch of I-35E between Dallas and Denton has been launched this month.

The new road will include a pair of managed lanes as well as additional general use and frontage lanes. A southbound bridge over Lake Lewsiville as well as upgrades to key intersections are part of the project as well. The job is a Public Private Partnership between the Texas Department of Transportation and the AGL Constructors and is slated for completion in 2017.

My story on the project, $1.4 Billion I-35E Expansion Project Kicks Off In North Texas, is in this week's Texas & Louisiana edition of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

wednesday, september 11, 2013

Venezuela Blackout

More than 70 percent of Venezuela -- including the capital of Caracas -- lost power on Sept. 3 after a massive grid failure. Authorities said a massive short circuit caused by a metal grill falling on the 765-kV transmission line.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro took to state television to blame the incident on sabatoge and called for a special security force to protect the country's electrical system. Others said the incident was the result of lax maintenance and insufficent investment into the country's energy infrastructure. Similar widespread outages hit the country three years ago.

My story on the incident, Accusations Fly After Major Blackout Hits Venezuela, is in this week's Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

thursday, september 05, 2013

The DFW Connector

The DFW Connector is now open after holding its ribbon cutting late last month. The $1.1 billion project has transformed an 8.4-mile stretch of outdated and overwhelmed roadways to a state of the art traffic conduit for one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the country.

To bring the project in under budget and more than nine months early, NorthGate Constructors employed an array of cutting-edge strategies made possible by emerging technology: an integrated material tracking system which streamlined the transportation of materials, intelligent compaction mechanisms that measured quality of earthwork preparation and telematics that employed GPS systems to track all the equipment on the job and provide detailed information.

My story on the project, $1.1 Billion DFW Connector Opens, is at ENR's Texas & Louisiana regional edition.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

wednesday, august 28, 2013

The Panama Canal's New Gates

The first gates for the Panama Canal's locks arrived after a trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Ten stories high and weighing 3,100 tons, the giant metal structures were carefully off-loaded and prepared to move into the new lock structures still under construction.

The ambitious Third Lane Expansion project is now more than 60% completed and slated for completion in 2015. The date was pushed back when the contractor building the locks, Grupo UPC, encountered problems with the concrete. An effort to recoup $573 million for the resulting overruns was denied by the Panama Canal Authority earlier this year.

My story on the gates' arrival and the update on the expansion project, Arrival of Gates Marks Milestone in Panama Canal Expansion, is the cover story for this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 12:00 pm | 0 comments

monday, march 11, 2013

Dredging the Panama Canal's Culebra Cut

When the $5.25 billion Third Lane Expansion of the Panama canal is complete in 2015, enormous post-Panamax cargo vessels will begin transiting the historic waterway. As a result, a large portion of the project has involved widening and deepening the navigation channel.

Recently the dredging operations to accomplish this on the famed Culebra Cut were concluded. This 14-kilometer passage is narrowest section of the canal and was one of the most difficult aspects of the original work on the waterway over a century ago.

My story on this milestone, Panama Canal Finishes Difficult Dredging is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, november 14, 2012

Panama Canal Atlantic Bridge

The French firm Vinci Construction Grands Projets has won a contract to construct a $366-million cable-stayed bridge that will span the Panama Canal on the historic waterway's Atlantic entrance.

The bridge must be built as the Third Lane Expansion project will sever the only road connection across the waterway on the norther side of the isthmus. A ferry will be put into service to transport vehicles until the span is completed in 2015.

My story on the project, French Firm Wins Panama Canal Bridge Project is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

friday, august 24, 2012

Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion

The contractor building the locks for the Panama Canal’s Third Lane Expansion has filed a claim against the Panama Canal Authority, asking to increase the price of the $3.18-billion contract by more than 18%.

The work on the massive new locks located at each entrance of the historic waterway is being done by Grupos Unidos por El Canal (or Grupo UPC). The international consortium's effort have already been hampered by delays that are projected to push back the opening date of the new works by more than six months. Officials with the Panama Canal Authority say they are evaluating the claim which pushes the cost of the project significantly above the $3.48 billion allocated cost for the work.

My story on the contractor's claim, Panama Canal Contractor Files $573-Million Claim, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

friday, august 24, 2012

Belo Monte Hydroelectric Project

Work on the $16 billion Belo Monte hydroelectric project in the Brazilian Amazon was halted last week with a ruling by a federal judge that the project's licenses were obtained improperly. Officials with the consortium building the dam, Norte Energia, said they planned to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.

On Aug. 14, Judge Souza Prudente found that the required consultations with indigenous groups were done by federal agencies rather than the Brazilian government itself making them invalid. Norte Energia said that while they were confident the ruling would be reversed, an overlong delay would limit the amount of work possible before the rainy season.

My story on the ruling, Brazilian Court Halts Belo Monte Dam Construction, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, august 08, 2012

Points South: The Panama Canal Feels the Financial Pinch

The financing of the $5.2 billion Third Lane Expansion of the Panama Canal has been linked to a series of incremental hikes in tolls over the course of the project. Each time the Panama Canal Authority has announced a new round of increases, there has been an outcry from the shipping industry.

This latest objection has been particularly strident as the industry argues that the impact of the global economic shutdown has already pushed many firms to the brink. The situation became so dire that a massive consolidation of shipping companies occurred last year -- giving even greater weight to their demands.

My post about the topic The Panama Canal Feels the Financial Pinch is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, july 19, 2012

The Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion

The construction of the new locks for the Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion will require more than 5 million cubic meters of concrete. The sheer volume of this material and the specific geotechnical and climactic challenges require specialized equipment. Add to that the logistical issues posed by the limited amount of space on the jobsite and it gets even more complicated.

To handle it an array of specialized equipment has been employed, from massive ice machines that cool the concrete mix to enormous tower cranes that transport it in bulk to the specific areas of placement. A fleet of pumper trucks and telescopic conveyer cranes are necessary as well.

My story, Panama's Concrete Challenge Calls for Custom Equipment, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, july 19, 2012

Seismic Risk and The Panama Canal

While Panama isn't typically associated with earthquakes, the $5.2 billion effort to construct a new set of locks for the country's world-famous canal isn't taking any chances. Researchers found evidence of a fault line almost on top of the site of the new Pacific locks that once produced a temblor of 7 magnitude or greater.

As a result, the standards for the construction of the new locks were substantially increased due to the necessity for the structures to not simply survive such a catastrophe, but emerge unscathed and in working order.

My story, A Shaky History in Panama, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record magazine.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, june 18, 2012

Points South: Scientific Discoveries at the Panama Canal Expansion

The massive earthworks required for the construction of the new locks for the Panama Canal expansion have proven a treasure trove for scientists and researchers. Two major findings — one in the area of paleontology and the other geologic — have already been presented to the scientific community and, most likely, there will be more to follow.

Scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City are taking advantage of the immense excavation effort to conduct research that otherwise would have been impossible. The results have been the discovery of two new extinct camel species and the revelation that the isthmus is far older than previously had been thought.

My post on the topic Scientific Discoveries at the Panama Canal Expansion is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, may 28, 2012

The Panama City Metro

The Panamanian government has undertaken an ambitious $1.8-billion subway/elevated train project that is expected to revolutionize public transportation in the country's capital city. The Panama Metro project is a a 14-kilometer light-rail line that will be the first of its kind in Central America when it is completed in 2014.

The project, launched in late 2010, is being built by Línea Uno, that includes Brazil's Norberto Odebrecht and Spanish company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC). Alstom will provide the 19 three-car train sets as well as electro-mechanical equipment on a turnkey basis.

Almost seven kilometers of the line will be excavated by two earth-pressure-balanced tunnel-boring machines, each 9.77 meters in diameter. More than five kilometers of elevated guideway will be built as well. read more

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, april 30, 2012

2012 Panama Canal Congress

Earlier this month, approximately 550 engineers and construction experts descended on Panama City, Panama for a three-day symposium on building mega-projects.

The congress was hosted the Panama Canal Authority and the centerpiece of the event was the progress on the $5.2 billion Third Lane Expansion of the historic waterway. A key subject of that was the recently-announced delays to that effort caused by difficulties in producing the high-quality concrete the effort demands.

The story on the event I contributed to, Global Talent Converges on Panama Canal, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, april 16, 2012

Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion

The $3.25-billion effort to build massive new locks on both entrances of the Panama Canal has been delayed by six months beyond the previously announced schedule due to problems with the concrete.

The international consortium handling the lock's construction, Grupos Unidos por El Canal, notified the Panama Canal Authority of the new altered schedule to complete the $3.5 billion locks earlier this month.

The delay is attributed to problems with the concrete mix, which didn't meet the 100-year standard set by the ACP.

My story on the delay, Panama Canal Expansion Falls Six Months Behind Schedule, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record. read more

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, march 01, 2012

Brazil Airports

Brazil awarded operating concessions for three of the country's largest airports to a trio of international consortiums. The partial privatization of the facilities is part of a larger push to upgrade the country's critical transportation infrastructure in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics that will be held in Brazil.

The trio of contracts netted Brazil $14.3 billion—almost three and a half times the minimum set by the government. All include substantial upgrades to São Paulo’s Guarulhos airport, Viracopos Airport in Campinas and President Juscelino Kubitschek Airport in Brasilia.

My story on the auction, Brazil Privatizes Three Major Airports, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record. read more

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, march 01, 2012

Peruvian Hydroelectric Dams

In the past six months a trio of Brazilian-backed hydroelectric dams planned for the Peruvian Amazon have stalled raising questions about the prospects for such projects in the future.

The projects -- the 2,000-MW Inambari Dam, the 1,278-MW Tambo-40 dam and the 2,000-MW Pakitzapango Dam -- were strongly opposed by indigenous groups who organized numerous protests against them, several of which turned violent.

The projects were part of a bilateral pact between Peru and Brazil agreed to last year for the construction of dams in the Andean nation that would send power to it's eastern neighbor. My story on the situation, Brazil's Peruvian Hydroelectric Plans Meet Resistance, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record. read more

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

monday, february 13, 2012

Points South: Brazil Building Collapse Highlights Infrastructure Concerns

Like many countries in Latin America, Brazil has enjoyed spectacular growth over the past few decades but the rapid advancement has often outstripped the country’s ability to keep up. While the population of major urban areas has relentlessly expanded the authorities have struggled to provide the necessary infrastructure the development demands. Upgrades have been piecemeal and oversight has been spotty as well.

The result has been a string of disasters which have sharpened concerns about the country's investment in infrastructure. These have occurred despite billions of dollars of investment into housing and transportation over the past several years.

My post about the topic Brazil Building Collapse Highlights Infrastructure Concerns is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

monday, january 30, 2012

Rio de Janeiro Building Collapse

At 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 a 20-story building in the historic center of Rio de Janeiro suddenly collapsed crushing two smaller structures. A total of 17 people died in the accident and authorities say five others remain missing.

The Liberty Building was a 70-year-old structure that recently had undergone at least two remodeling projects the city says were never properly approved. The building operators and the company who performed the renovations say no such approval is necessary.

An investigation by the Brazilian Federal police and the agency overseeing building construction in Rio are conducting inquiries into the cause of the accident.

My story on the collapse, Rio Officials Probe Cause of Fatal Building Collapse, is in the current edition of Engineering-News Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, january 26, 2012

The Panama Canal

Work on the critical locks portion of the Panama Canal's $5.2-billion Third-Lane Expansion was brought to a halt for almost a week due to a labor dispute.

On Jan. 16, workers employed by the consortium building the $3.12-billion locks, Grupo Unidos por El Canal (GUPC) walked off the job demanding safer working conditions and higher pay. The strike was organized by SUNTRACS, one of Panama's largest construction labor unions.

After a series of roundtables overseen by the government, the labor action ended after the consortium agreed to a 13% wage hike. The new hourly rates are reportedly $3.34 and $3.96 per hour for skilled labor, up from the previous $2.90 per hour.

My story on the project, Workers End Strike at Panama Canal Lock Expansion, is in the current edition of Engineering-News Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:30 am | 0 comments

wednesday, august 03, 2011

Brazil's High Speed Rail Project

An ambitious $21.3 billion high speed rail project designed to link Brazil's two largest metropolitan areas, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, was sidetracked no offers were presented at auction for the work last month.

The 510-kilometer Trem de Alta Velocidade Rio-São Paulo was initially planned to be in place for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, both hosted by Brazil.

While government officials say they will tweak the contracts and hold another bid later this year, the project's six-year construction schedule makes it unlikely more than portions of the rail line will be in place for the two events.

My story on the project, Lack of Bids Stymies $21B High-Speed Rail Project in Brazil, is in the current edition of Engineering-News Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

tuesday, june 28, 2011

Points South: A Major Dam Project Shelved

Ollanta Humala won Peru’s presidency promising to champion indigenous rights and promote economic growth. The shutdown of a $4 billion hydroelectric project in the Amazon presents the dangers on both sides for the new head of state.

Already the energy ministry has announced no further concession to build the dam will be granted without consultation with indigenous groups and those groups have been clear they oppose any efforts to restart the Inambari effort. And the hydro initiative is only one of a series of major projects that have drawn the focus of protests across Peru since Spring.

My post about the topic A Major Dam Project Shelved As Peru’s New President Takes Over is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, june 16, 2011

Points South: To Build, Latin America Looks To China

Latin America's growth has been fueled by a massive commodities boom and the countries have increasingly turned the largesse to large-scale infrastructure projects. The situation would seem to be ripe for US firms hungry for developing markets to invest in but the opportunities are increasingly spoken for by Asian interests.

Trade between Latin America and China topped $180 billion last year – double the amount of just two years ago. With $3 trillion in reserves and a need for the commodities that Latin America offers an abundance of, it seems a sensible match.

My post about the topic To Build, Latin America Looks To China is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, june 16, 2011

The Transnordestina Railroad

A $3.21 billion railroad project slated to revive northeast Brazil's lagging infrastructure in the face of a massive development boom is underway and slated for completion by 2012.

The 1,728-kilometer Transnordestina line will link the city of Eliseu Martins in the region’s interior to the ports of Pecém and Suape on the coast. When the project reaches its full capacity in 2019 that is expected to reach 30 million tonnes of grains, iron ore and minerals, such as gypsum, from the interior of the region each year.

Brazilian steelmaker Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional is backing the project and construction giant Odebrecht is building a large portion of the railway.

My story on the project, Brazilian $3.21 Billion Rail Revitalization Project Tracks for 2012 Arrival, is in the current edition of Engineering-News Record and a slideshow is available on the ENR.com website.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, march 14, 2011

The San Antonio Hydroelectric Project

The $9 billion San Antonio Hydroelectric Project on the Madiera River in the Brazlian Amazon is preparing to begin installing the first of 44 one-of-a-kind massive bulb turbines that will provide 3,150 MW to Brazil's energy grid.

When completed in 2015, the 3,150 MW will be the largest run-of-the-river dams in the world (although it is expected to be eclipsed by the nearby 3,300 MW Jirau dam slated to be finished the following year).

The Odebrecht-led consortium begain on the San Antonio project in 2008 and has been concentrated on the two banks of the river. During the summer, the waterway will be routed through the almost-completed spillway and work will begin on the portion that makes up the current riverbed.

My story on the project, Brazil's Unique Bulb Turbines Under Way, is in the current edition of Engineering-News Record and a slideshow is available on the ENR.com website.

posted by kleph @ 6:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, february 16, 2011

The Panama Canal

The excavations for the Pacific Access Channel required to connect the new locks being built for the Panama Canal to the waterway's navigation have reached the point where further progress will be below the waterway's existing waterline.

To allow for the excavation to continue, backfilled cellular cofferdam will hold back Miraflores Lake, the man-made body of water between the Miraflores locks and Pedro Miguel locks. Once the cofferdam is finished, excavation of 26 million cubic meters of material in the access-channel route can proceed as well as the construction of a permanent, $70-million, clay-core, basalt-rock-filled dam.

My story on the cofferdam and the progress of the canal expansion, Canal Cofferdam Takes Shape, is in the current edition of Engineering-News Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

friday, february 04, 2011

Points South: The Long-Term Effects of Natural Disasters

In recent years, if Latin America has been in the headlines it has tended to be for natural disasters of one type or another. For the most part, the recent economic health of the region has allowed these countries to shoulder the financial burdens of these events.

Recent studies suggest the region has become better prepared for such events but still needs to accelerate efforts to reduce risks as well as prepare contingency funds for future catastrophes. That preparation, studies show, will help offset longer term affects from such disasters.

My post about the topic The Long-Term Effects of Natural Disasters is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

monday, december 27, 2010

Points South: South American Cities Still Struggle With Shantytowns

Almost every major South American city suffers its shantytown. Massive population shifts and insufficient low-cost housing have created vast satellite cities around metropolitan centers that are beset by poverty, crime and dire lack of infrastructure.

Over the past several decades, rural populations and immigrants descended on metropolitan areas looking for jobs and better living conditions. As the number of new arrivals dwarfed the existing housing, massive land-grabs of unused real estate occurred. The legal limbo often creates a situation for criminal gangs to take over and use the shantytowns as their base of operations.

My post about the topic South American Cities Still Struggle With Shantytowns is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

monday, december 20, 2010

Points South: Wikileaks Reveals Concerns About the Panama Canal Expansion

According to confidential US diplomatic cables made public by the website Wikileaks, Panamanian officials have grave concerns with the financial feasibility of the Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion project as well as serious questions about the fairness of the bidding process that awarded the job to the Spanish construction firm Sacyr Vallehermoso SA.

Rival consortiums alleged the Spanish company colluded to obtain the contract and questioned the ability of the consortium to meet the price they proffered for the work. They also allege US officials strongly advocated awarding the work to the consortia that included the one American company involved in the bidding -- Bechtel.

My post about the topic Wikileaks Reveals Concerns About the Panama Canal Expansion is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

monday, december 20, 2010

Colombia Flooding

Winter is the rainy season on the Caribbean coast of South America but rarely have the deluges been as devastating. Colombia has been struck hard by deluges. The death toll stands at 281 and more than 2.2 million people been affected by the rains, floods and landslides.

On Nov. 30, the levee for the Dique Canal broke and, since then, between 400 million and 800 million cubic meters of water has escaped the canal to inundate approximately 400 square miles.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile, Alabama office has dispatched technical experts to help Colombia develop a strategy to handle the disaster. My story on the flooding and the work to handle the canal breach, Colombia Hit Hard by Levee Break; U.S. Corps Sends Help From Mobile, is in the current edition of Engineering-News Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

tuesday, december 07, 2010

Points South: Brazil Braves the Dangers of Deep Water

While the United States has sought to curtail oil exploration in its waters due to concerns about safety and oversight in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Brazil is moving to ramp up its efforts to exploit newly discovered fields in the south Atlantic.

The Tupi and Libra fields are at locations where the depth the ocean reaches of 3 kilometers or more. The oil is then held in pockets of a salt layer more than 4 km underground. As a result, extracting the oil is a highly risky endeavor and the country has only begun to put the regulations in place to monitor it.

My post about the topic Brazil Braves the Dangers of Deep Water is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

tuesday, december 07, 2010

The Lima Metro Line 1

Lima, Peru's $410-million elevated electric train line is on track for completion in June of next year, at the end of a remarkably short 18-month work schedule.

The project involves the construction of 11.7 kilometers of new train line and nine stations as well as the complete refurbishment of 9.8 km of existing line and seven stations. It was was first begun by the Peruvian government in 1985 but construction was idled soon after due to a financial crisis and violent leftist insurgency.

The work is being conducted by the Consorcio Tren Eléctrico comprised of the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, the Peruvian company Graña y Montero and Siemens Mobility. My story on the project, New Lima Metro on Track, as well as a slideshow of photos are in the current edition of Engineering-News Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, october 27, 2010

The Manaus-Iranduba Bridge

The $400 million Manaus-Iranduba Bridge in Brazil is set for completion by the end of the year. The 3,600-meter-long span across one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon, Rio Negro, will be one of the longest in the South American country.

The structure, which boasts a 400-meter-long cable-stayed central section, is being built by Rio Negro Consortium, a joint venture of Camargo Correa and Construbase who started work in 2008 after winning the contract from the Amazonas state government.

The bridge is expected to spur development in the remote reaches of western Brazil but environmentalists are concerned that will lead to destruction of the tropical rainforest as well.My story on the project, Rio Negro Bridge, $400-Million Economic Link, Opens in Amazon Basin, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, october 27, 2010

Machu Picchu

The famed "lost city" of the Incas, Machu Picchu, has been a tourist hotspot for decades. During the peak of the season more than 2,500 visitors a day descend on the ruins.

Earlier this year, torrential rains washed away the sole link from the site to the outside world -- an 80-mile-long railway. Thousands of tourists had to be airlifted out by helicopter and the site was cut off for weeks until repairs could be made.

As a result, Peruvian legislators have revived a controversial measure to construct a roadway that would link a highway to the north of Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes, the tourist town that services the ruins. The proposal has refueled concerns that the enormous popularity of the site may be endangering it.

My story on the proposed road, Peru Ponders Machu Picchu Access Road, is in this issue of Engineering News-Record and it is accompanied with a slideshow of pictures as well.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, september 29, 2010

The Panama Canal

The final big-ticket contract for the massive $5.2 billion Third Lane Expansion of the Panama Canal was awarded in September by the Panama Canal Authority.

Belgian dredging firm Jan de Nul won the $54.5-million job to dredge and excavate 4 million cu meters at the entrance of the historic waterway's Pacific access channel. The firm previously was awarded the $89.6-million contract for dredging work to widen and deepen the canal's Atlantic entrance.

The company is also part of Grupo Unidos por el Canal, the Spanish-led consortium that won the $3.1-billion contract to design and build the expansion's massive new locks.

My story on the award and update on the status of the expansion work, Panama Canal Project Revs Up With New Award, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, september 29, 2010

The Los Olmos Project

The effort to bore a 20-kilometer tunnel through the Andes has restarted in Northern Peru after months of delay.

Work on the $247-million Los Olmos irrigation project was brought to a halt last April when the tunnel-boring machine was damaged by rock bursts in April.

On July 8, engineers with Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht were able to restart the TBM and, a month later, work began on the tunnel's opposite approach using conventional drill-and-blast methods.

The tunnel breakthrough is now slated for spring 2012, and project completion should follow six months later -- more than two years after its originally scheduled finish.

My story, Los Olmos Tunneling Resumes, is on ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, september 16, 2010

Points South: Hiking Along the Great Inca Road

The Qhapaq Ñan or Inka Nanni is known as the “Great Inca Road” and it is what remains of one of the engineering marvels of the world. When it was built it was, by far, the greatest infrastructure achievement in the Western Hemisphere.

The heart of the system was a massive north-south roadway – the Great Inca Road – stretched more than 3,700 miles. That road still exists and is in use by the residents of the Andean highlands. While many sections have fallen into disrepair the remnants of the original road are quite easy to find and follow for great distances.

My post about my visit to this engineering wonder Hiking Along the Great Inca Road is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction for ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, september 01, 2010

Floating Power Barges

A Houston firm has completed a pair of $125 million power generation barges which are scheduled to be shipped to Venezuela in order to help the Latin American country cope with a pressing power shortage.

Waller Marine completed work on the two 171 MW facilities, Margarita I and Josefa Rufina I, earlier this month at the Signal International Shipyard in Orange, TX. The GE 7FA turbine generators are the largest single turbine generator ever mounted on a floating platform.

Venezuela ordered the two plants in January when power shortages forced the government to implement rolling blackouts. The plans will be installed in a prepared basin at Tacoa, Venezuela near the country's capital.

My story, Houston Firm Floats Power To Venezuela, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

saturday, june 19, 2010

The Billinghurst Bridge

The Billinghurst Bridge over the Madre de Dios River in the Southern Peruvian Amazon is slated to be finished in December of this year - almost three decades from when the project was inaugurated.

The $25.71 million effort to build the 722-meter-long span was begun in 1978 and the parts for the steel suspension bridge were fabricated in Austria and sent to Peru for assembly. But financial and social upheaval in the country put the project on hold.

Today, the consortium building the Interoceanic Highway, Conirsa, has undertaken the effort to build the bridge and plans to have it finished in time for the road's official opening in December.

My story on the bridge construction, "Peru Project Spans One River, Three Decades" is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record and a slideshow of images is on the magazine's website as well.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, may 19, 2010

The Los Olmos Project

The Los Olmos project in Northern Peru is one of the most challenging engineering efforts in the world. The $247 million undertaking is designed to bring water from the Western slopes of the Andes to the dry Pacific coastland through a 20-kilometer-long tunnel.

Two years ago I penned an article examining Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht's effort to build the tunnel, the second deepest being excavated in the world. It was slated for completion last month.

The delay has been caused by rock bursts which have been buffeting the tunnel boring machine boring the tunnel over the past year. One massive one that struck on April 29 has indefinitely halted work after damaging a key part of the machine.

My story on the difficulties the project is facing, Series of Rock-Bursts Throws Peruvian Tunnel Job Offtrack. read more

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, april 28, 2010

The Belo Monte Dam

The 11.2 GW Belo Monte hydroelectric project on the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon is one of the most ambitious energy generation projects being undertaken on the planet - and one of the most controversial.

On April 20, a nine-company consortium, Norte Energia, won the right to build the $11 billion project. The group is led by Compania Hidro Eletrica do Sao Francisco (CHESF), a unit of state-run Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA.

The dam, a run-of-river scheme designed to buffer the environmental impact of the project, is expected to take five years to build and will be the third-largest hydro facility in the world when completed.

Opposition to the scheme has been strong since it was initially proposed in the mid-1980s. As Brazil's electricity regulating agency Aneel awarded the job, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the agency's Brasilia headquarters and vowed to fight the project. read more

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, april 21, 2010

Points South: The 50th Anniversary of Brazil's Capital City

A half-century ago, Brazil inaugurated its unique capitol city, Brasilia. Designed by the world renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer, urban planner Lucio Costa, and landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, the capital was envisioned as one of the greatest planned metropolitan centers ever built.

It's bold use of curvature and concrete were believed to be an exciting vision of the future. Today, much of the architecture seems somewhat dated but somehow retains it's sweep and power.

My post about the city and its origins The 50th Anniversary of Brazil's Unique Capital City is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, april 12, 2010

Points South: Hydroelectric Headaches in Ecuador

When Ecuador's President Rafael Correa announced he was booting Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht out of the country two years ago, many saw it as a gambit to get a better deal on projects the firm had signed with his predecessors. It turned out he was completely serious.

Ecuador seized all of Odebrecht's operations, including: a small regional airport, two hydroelectric plants and a rural irrigation project. The cause was a dispute over the San Antonio Hydroelectric project that was had been built by the firm as part of a 25-year concession.

My post about the topic Hydroelectric Headaches in Ecuador is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, april 01, 2010

Points South: Machu Picchu Reopens After Flooding

Peru's Machu Picchu re-opened this week, less than two months after torrential rains cut off the one rail link between the remote ruins and the rest of Peru. The incident stranded thousands of tourists and the Peruvian government were forced to airlift them out by helicopter.

Despite the devastating floodwaters in the valley below, Machu Picchu itself was undamaged by the unusually strong rainfalls - partially because of the sophisticated drainage systems the Incan engineers incorporated in the ridgetop citadel's design.

My post about the disaster and recovery effortsMachu Picchu Reopens After Flooding is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, march 31, 2010

Lima's El Metropolitano

Peru's capital city of Lima is set to unveil its $538-million integrated urban bus system commonly known as El Metropolitano in April.

The system, based on Bogota, Colombia's successful TransMileneo system, will feature a 26-kilometer primary bus line built in the center lanes of the city's main north-south arterial roads, with a fleet of 522 natural-gas-powered buses. Officials say it will be able to handle up to 700,000 passengers daily when completely operational at the end of may.

The centerpiece of the project is an $18 million central terminal constructed beneath the Promenade of Naval Heroes in Central Lima designed to handle 110,000 passengers a day.

My story, Growing Transit System in Lima, Peru Bringing Order to 'Chaos', is in this week's Engineering News-Record. In addition, it features a slideshow of images from the project.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, march 31, 2010

South America Power Transmission

Last year, Brazil was hit by a massive blackout that plunged two-thirds of the country into darkness for hours. In March, Chile suffered a power outage that left almost 80 percent of the population without power for hours.

Both incidents occurred when a localized failure in the power grid led to a chain reaction that caused a widespread failure in the country's transmission system. They serve as a warning for many countries in the region that have let the power grids languish while infrastructure development has been focused elsewhere.

Brazil and Peru are examples of two countries that have poured billions of dollars into the electric power grid infrastructure in an effort to stave off blackouts in the coming years. My story, In South America, Trouble on the Line, is in this week's Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 5:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, march 10, 2010

Points South: The Refinery Revolution

Brazil and Venezuela are slated to invest billions into refinery projects in order to take advantage of the two country's oil largesse.

While the two are in agreement on the need for such facilities, the rationales are quite different. Brazil is looking to capitalize on the output from recent major oil discoveries while Venezuela is looking to shore up a shortfall that is crippling its potential output.

My post about the topic The Refinery Revolution is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, march 03, 2010

The Chile Earthquake

At 3:34 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, Chile was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. The 8.8 magnitude temblor lasted for three minutes but devastated the infrastructure of the Andean nation.

The death toll stands at almost 800 although many more remain missing. More than 500,000 structures were seriously damaged and an estimated 2 million Chileans were affected by the disaster.

Despite the devastation, the aftermath of the earthquake is being seen as a testament to the country's preparedness for such a catastrophic event.

My cover story, Chiles Quake Damage Mitigated by Past Lessons, is in this week's Engineering News-Record examines how Chile has learned from past quakes to improve it's readiness for such powerful temblors. In addition, my article Chile Holds Strong Recovery Hopes examines why experts expect the country to rebound relatively quickly from the disaster.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, march 03, 2010

The Panama Canal

A joint U.S.-European group has presented the low bid to analyze the options for a vehicular crossing at the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal.

San Francisco-based URS Corp. and the Danish firm COWI A/S submitted a bid of $895,000 - the lowest of five tendered - to examine the possibilities of a permanent crossing at the historic waterway's Atlantic entrance that will allow uninterrupted traffic on that side of the isthmus.

The crossing is needed since the construction of new locks on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal required for the $5.2 billion Third Lane Expansion project will make vehicular traffic across the isthmus on the existing roadway impossible. read more

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, march 03, 2010

The Inambari Hydroelectric Project

The momentum behind a proposed 2,000MW hydroelectric facility in the Peruvian Amazon is gaining as Brazilian interests continue to back the effort.

The Brazilian consortium behind the project, Empresa de Generacion Electrica Amazonas Sur S.A.C. (EGASUR), says construction of the dam on the Inambari river could begin by the end of this year and be completed by 2014.

If approved by Peru's Ministry of Mines and Energy the consortium would be required to replace more than 100 kilometers of the InterOceanic highway slated for completion later this year.

My story, Brazil Backs $4-Billion Peruvian Hydropower Project, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

saturday, february 27, 2010

Points South: The Chilean Earthquake

The day after the massive earthquake that struck Southern Chile, officials were beginning to get a handle on the scale of the disaster. So far more than 300 people are believed to have perished in the disaster although many more remain unaccounted for.

While the death toll has remained low for the sheer power of the event, the scope of the disaster is immense. More than 2 million people are believed to have been affected and the severe damage to the infrastructure is expected to be a problem for the entire country.

My post about the disaster The Chilean Earthquake is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

monday, february 22, 2010

Points South: Power, Progress Bolster Latin American Ties

Surging demand for power has pushed many Latin American countries to the limits of their power generation and transmission capacity. So when weather-related problems arise like they have in recent months the effect is magnified dramatically.

Countries across the continent have their hands full trying to handle the problem and the almost certainty that it will only increase going forward as population and economic conditions accelerate.

My post about the topic Power, Progress Bolster Latin American Ties is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, february 03, 2010

Points South: El Niño’s Destructive Return

El Niño has returned to South America with a vengeance. The quasi-periodic weather pattern - also known as the Southern Oscillation, or simply ENSO - occurs every five to eight years and is characterized by unusually warm sea surface temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela have all been hit particularly hard by abnormal weather conditions varying from torrential floods to dire drought. For all the regions involved, there is little hope until the weather patterns resume a more normal cycle – something that typically isn’t expected for another three months.

My post about the topic El Niño’s Destructive Return is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, february 03, 2010

Ruta del Sol

In 2005, Colombia undertook a massive $770 million infrastructure renewal program aimed at paving more than 3,000 kilometers of the country's roadways.

That effort was bolstered even further recently by the awarding of contracts to build a 1,000-kilometer highway connecting the capital of Bogota and the Caribbean coast.

Two of the three sections for the $2.6 billion Ruta del Sol (Highway of the Sun, in Spanish) were awarded to a pair of multinational consortiums who will build and operate the highway. The final contract is scheduled to be awarded this summer.

My story on the road effort, Highway Goal: Colombia's Gem to the Ocean, is in this week's issue of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, january 21, 2010

Points South: The Nicaragua Canal

The Panama Canal has become cemented in the public mind as the trans-oceanic waterway across the Central American isthmus. But the route chosen for the historic canal almost went through nearby Nicaragua.

In fact, a stamp depicting a smoking volcano is believed to have been the deciding factor swaying the US Senate to vote for the route through Panama in 1902. The success of that enterprise quelled calls for the northern alternate for almost a century.

Recently, Nicaragua renewed the push for a canal route through it's territory as a plausible alternative to the Panamanian waterway. Officials have redoubled efforts to find financing for the ambitious $18 billion proposal.

My most recent post for my ENR.com blog, A man, a plan, a canal... Nicaragua? looks at the interesting history of this alternate canal route and the recent efforts to renew it.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, january 20, 2010

The Panama Canal

The construction of new locks on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal required for the $5.2 billion Third Lane Expansion project will make vehicular traffic across the isthmus on the existing roadway impossible.

To address the situation, the Panama Canal Authority has begun the process to find a solution - either a bridge or tunnel - that will permit traffic to pass across the waterway. When completed it will be the only permanent vehicular crossing connecting the North and South American land masses on the Atlantic side of the isthmus.

The ACP is currently soliciting bids for a feasibility contract to examine possible alternatives. My story, Panama Canal Authority Seeks New Canal Crossing, is in this week's Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

friday, january 15, 2010

Points South: The Activist Who Understood Brazil's Rivers

Earlier this year Glenn Switkes, the regional go-to man for a Berkley-based activist group International Rivers, of complications from lung cancer. Glenn knew everything there was to know about the convoluted process Brazil employs to get big hydroelectric projects built. I was lucky enough to cross paths with him when I began covering the same topic for ENR.

One of the things Glenn showed me that just because someone might be on the opposite side of the discussion I’m writing about, there’s a hell of lot I could learn if I kept my mouth shut and listened. He knew the system inside out and was always ready to answer my questions about it, even if the story I was writing was about progress on a project he vehemently despised.

My post about Glenn The Activist Who Understood Brazil's Rivers and Dams is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, december 23, 2009

The Panama Canal

Bids for the second-largest contract required as part of the massive $5.2 billion Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion Project have been submitted to the governing authority of the historic waterway.

Four groups submitted bids for the work completing a 6.7-kilometer-long access channel on the canal's Pacific side. The $268 million offer by an international consortium comprised of the firms FCC, MECO and ICA was the lowest. The job will be awarded early next year.

The work involves the excavation of 26 million cubic meters of material and the construction of a a 1.7 kilometer-long clay core dam between the access channel and the Miraflores Lake. In addition, 80 hectacres of a former US Army firing range must be cleared of unexploded ordinance.

My story on the bidding, Spanish-Mexican-Costa Rican Team Submits Low Bid for Second Biggest Panama Canal Contract, is at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments

monday, october 05, 2009

Points South: Brazil Ties Its Fortunes to Hosting Big Games

This week, Brazil was announced as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games. Two years ago, the country was named the host of the 2014 World Cup – making it only the fifth time to host the event on two occasions (the 1950 World Cup was held there).

The timing has been providential. Much like the rest of the world, Brazil’s economy was battered by the economic downturn. Yet the South American giant has been able to restore prosperity at a surprising pace.

My post about the topic Brazil Ties Its Fortunes to Hosting Big Games is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

friday, september 25, 2009

Points South: China’s Growing Influence in Latin America

Earlier this year, China surpassed the United States as Brazil’s leading trading partner – bringing an almost 80-year-long streak to an inglorious end. The straw that collapsed this particular camel was a surge in Chinese demand for iron ore, one of Brazil’s biggest exports.

It isn't an isolated case. Chinese demand for mineral commodities has already allowed it to displace the US as the leading trading partner for Chile. Peru is not far behind. The recent financial fortunes of the Asian nation have made an even stronger case for Latin American countries to do business. The country being left out is the region's traditional trading partner, the United States.

My post about the topic A Dragon Apparent: China’s Growing Influence in Latin America is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

tuesday, july 28, 2009

Points South: The Honduran Crisis and U.S. Policy in Latin America

Just more than a month ago, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was forcibly removed from office by that country’s military. Up till now, the Central American nation has played an minor role in the US policy toward Latin America but the crisis is quickly becoming one of the first big tests for the Obama administration in the region.

For the Obama administration, biding time may mean the loss of some important opportunities to build relationships in the region as well as permitting serious problems to continue to grow. Much of the region has actively sought business and political ties with other major powers due to the perceived indifference of the US to its concerns.

My post about the topic The Honduran Crisis and U.S. Policy in Latin America is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, july 15, 2009

Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion

An international construction team led by Spanish contractor Sacyr Vallehermoso SA netted the design-build job to construct a pair of new set of locks for the Panama Canal. The work is the heart of a $5.2 billion effort to expand the historic waterway.

The $3.12 billion bid by Grupo Unidos for el Canal was significantly within the Panama Canal Authority's estimated $3.48 billion for the lock-building effort. The technical evaluation of the consortium's proposal was also the highest of the three proposals for the work.

In addition to Sacyr Vallehermoso, the winning consortium Impregilo SpA of Italy, Belgium's Jan De Nul NV, Constructora Urbana SA (CUSA) of Panama and Heerema Fabrication Group of The Netherlands. The design team is made up of MWH from Broomfield, Colo., Tetra Tech of Pasadena, Calif and Holland's IV Group. read more

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, june 22, 2009

Points South: Australian Infrastructure Efficency

Little more than a year ago, the largest hurdle mining companies in Western Australia faced was getting material out of the country. While mining operations were expanding at a rapid pace, the infrastructure supporting it lagged significantly.

The collapse of commodity prices took some pressure of the overburdened rail system but it also may have spurred an agreement between major mining companies that will maximize the efficiency of the railway until expansions can be completed.

My post about the topic Australian Infrastructure Efficency is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, june 10, 2009

Points South: The Legacy of The War in the Pacific

The War in the Pacific was fought 130 years ago but the political legacy of the conflict continues to vex the countries that were embroiled in it – Bolivia, Peru and Chile.

The five-year conflict was fought for control of Atacama Desert, a 600-mile-long strip of land on the Pacific Coast of South America. The region remains the focus of contentious disagreements between the three countries that sometimes threatens to destabilize regional tranquility.

My post about the topic The Legacy of The War in the Pacific is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

saturday, may 30, 2009

Points South: Keeping it In-House at The Panama Canal

The headlines concerning the Panama Canal's ambitious Third Lane Expansion Project have tended to focus on the multi-million (and multi-billion) dollar contracts awarded for the work on the effort. Yet the Panama Canal Authority is handling $550 million of the expansion effort in-house.

The bulk of this involves the deepening and widening of the Gatun Lake and Galliard Cut which will entail the dredging of more than 27 million cubic meters of material – more than half the total amount required for the expansion. Yet it also involves substantial upgrades in preparation for the expanded waterway.

My post about the topic Keeping it In-House at The Panama Canal is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, may 21, 2009

Points South: Peruvian Roads Lead to Tourism

The InterOceanic Highway project is a $1.3 billion effort to complete a paved road through Southern Peru that is the final link in a mid-South American ocean-to-ocean roadway. Two consortiums led by Brazilian construction giants Odebrecht and Carmargo Correa have undertaken the effort.

Bus services and private tours are booming and Cusco’s tourism board now estimates that as many as 60,000 Brazilian tourists arrive each year via the new roadway. That’s probably a bit optimistic but the fact tourist transits are increasing is obvious.


My post about the topic Peruvian Roads Lead to Tourism is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, may 20, 2009

Panama Canal Third Lane Expansion

The $5.25 billion Third Lane Expansion of the Panama Canal has made quite a bit of progress in the past 21 months and it's getting ready to kick into an even higher gear.

To date, substantial work has been done on the Pacific Access Channel as well as dredge works on the Pacific entrance to the waterway. (In addition to ongoing dredge and construction efforts undertaken by the Panama Canal Authority).

In July, the Panama Canal Authority is slated to award the estimated $3.3 billion design/build contract for the construction of the new locks. Three consortia comprised of more than two dozen international firms are vying for the historic job.

To prepare for that vast undertaking, the canal authority has partnered with Denver, Col.-based CH2M Hill to create an innovative management team that will oversee the effort. read more

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

wednesday, april 29, 2009

Points South: Panama’s Infrastructure Dilemma

The rapid growth of Panama City, Panama in the past decade has been heralded as a boon for the Central American country but the less enviable side effects of the largess are apparent on its narrow streets.

While high-end building developments have sprouted like kudzu after a spring rain, the road infrastructure hasn’t kept pace. Today, rush hour is a sunrise to sunset phenomena. Major arteries are so clogged traffic fills tiny residential streets seeking a means to get from one place to another. The weight of the problem is taking its toll.

My post about the topic Panama’s Infrastructure Dilemma is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

friday, april 24, 2009

Points South: Panama Ponders a New President

Panama's next president will preside over a period of dramatic change for the Central American country which is grappling with an almost unprecedented degree of growth.

The next administration will have to see the country through the current economic crisis and then ensure Panama is ready to reap the largess of ongoing major infrastructure efforts – most notably the $5.2-billion expansion of the Panama Canal.The race to see who will be that leader has come down to a battle between Ricardo Martinelli of the Democratic Change and Balbina Herrera of the Revolutionary Democratic Party.

My post about the topic Panama Ponders a New President is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

saturday, april 18, 2009

Points South: Obama at The Summit of the Americas

While the regular media has overlooked it, President Obama's performance at the 5th Summit of the Americas has been a defining moment for US policy in the hemisphere.

Obama pledged to assist the US's southern neighbors with the current global financial crisis as first token of goodwill to a region that justifiably has felt snubbed by polices of its powerful northern neighbor.

My post about the topic Obama at The Summit of the Americas is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, april 09, 2009

Points South: The Fujimori Trial and Latin American Democracy

Earlier this week a court in Lima, Peru, sentenced the country’s former president, Alberto Fujimori, to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses. It didn’t take long after the verdict was announced for the “D” word to start appearing in headlines.

The problem is, to describe Fujimori’s government as a "dictatorship" severely misrepresents the importance of what happened this week and, more troublingly, obscures the danger of such a regime emerging again in the region.

My post about the topic The Fujimori Trial and Latin American Democracy is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

friday, april 03, 2009

Points South: Anxiety Grows for Australian Construction

Despite a global downturn in demand, Australia just announced a $1.5 billion trade surplus in February that was three times projected estimates and the second largest on record. An optimistic outlook in the wake of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s performance at the G20 summit this week lifted stocks as well.

Still, the government is struggling to contain the country’s economic contraction and bolster investment. Analysts expect reports of the first quarter for 2009 will confirm the country has entered its first recession in almost two decades. And no sector is more laden with anxiety than construction.

My post about the topic Anxiety Grows for Australian Construction is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

sunday, march 29, 2009

Points South: The Destabilizing Influence of the Drug Trade

Drug policy is a key issue in many countries such as Peru, Colombia and Mexico due to the destabilizing influence it has in almost every level of society. The ability to invest resources in sectors such as infrastructure are intimately tied to the successes in dealing with drug trafficking.

The success of the effort holds a great deal of importance for Mexico as well as countries like Colombia and Peru who have finally been able to put decades of uncertainty fueled by the narcotics trade behind them. The recent resurgence in the trade is something they hope is an anomaly not a return to a dark era.

My post about the topic The Destabilizing Influence of the Drug Trade is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

friday, march 27, 2009

Venezuela Construction

The dramatic implosion of oil prices in the past year has put a huge dent in Venezuela's budget which relies on the exports of the commodity for financing.

Last week Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez unveiled a new budget featuring a package of austerity measures and tax hikes that did little to put concerns to rest.

Officials with Odebrecht Venezuela say that they will slow down projects if obtaining funds from the government gets tight but will not stop work on any projects. These include the $990 million "third bridge" over the Orinoco River.

The bigger question will be payments to companies whose assets were seized in the past two years as part of Chavez's nationalization push. Cement producers Lafarge, Holcim and Cemex have yet to receive any payment for the loss of their plants and production facilities in Venezuela last year. read more

posted by kleph @ 8:30 am | 0 comments

friday, march 27, 2009

Camargo Correa

A year-long investigation into corruption involving Camargo Correa, one of the largest construction firms in South America, came to a head on Wednesday when Brazilian federal police raided the firm's Sao Paulo headquarters and arrested four directors.

The company is accused of various financial crimes as well as bribing public officials. According to the Brazilian federal prosecutor's office Camargo officials were laundering money through a system of fake companies and illegal currency traders.

In a statement released Thursday, Camargo Correa said they were "perplexed" by the accusations and insisted all of their business transactions were legal and proper.

My story on the situation, Brazilian Construction Giant Camargo Correa Hit With Corruption Charges is in this week's edition of Engineering News-Record.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

saturday, march 21, 2009

Points South: Peru’s Cement Industry and the Path to Recovery

At first glance, Peru’s cement market seems to be a poster child for the economic challenges facing Latin America in the wake of the Global financial crisis. Tight credit and dwindling profits have bitten the country's construction sector hard and with it, the domestic cement industry.

Yet the mood concerning cement’s prospects is positively buoyant. Cement sales for January and February in Peru were almost 6 percent better than the same period in 2008. And with the prospect of the government’s $3.3 billion stimulus package on the horizon, there is every reason to believe the resurgence is for real.

My post about the topic Peru’s Cement Industry and the Path to Recovery is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, march 19, 2009

Machu Picchu

A plan to build an elevator to ferry tourists up to the famous 'lost' city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, has been proposed by the regional government in Peru.

The regional tourism board for the Department of Cusco says the elevator will ascend 1,500 feet from the level of the Urubamba River to the ridge where the ancient citadel is located. (Tourists presently use a bus service that winds it's way up a dirt road on the side of the mountain.)

If built, the number of tourists could increase fourfold over the current daily maximum of approximately 2,500. That concerns many who feel the site is already in danger due to the influx of visitors.

My story on the project, Peru Proposes Elevator to Increase Access to Machu Picchu Site, is on ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, march 16, 2009

Points South: New U.S. Policy for Latin America Emerges

In the past two months, since President Obama’s inauguration, observers have been waiting to see what approach the new administration would take toward the rest of the hemisphere.

That apprehension began to be answered last week with a slew of moves by the White House in terms of Latin American Policy. There has been a sense of optimism with the new administration that relations between the US and the rest of the hemisphere will move off the back burner of foreign policy.

My post about the topic New U.S. Policy for Latin America Emerges is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 1 comments

thursday, march 12, 2009

Latin America Infrastructure Development

Nations across South and Central America are taking a recognizable tack in their efforts to stave of financial collapse - stimulus packages. Notably, multi-billion dollar programs that emphasize infrastructure development.

Brazil has inaugurated a $270 billion effort and is preparing a program to construct 1 million homes for low income families. Argentina is preparing a $21 billion package, Peru has pledged $3.3 billion and Chile is planning to spend $4 billion. To this effort the World Bank has said it will provide $100 in financial support for developing nations, of which a third is likely to go to infrastructure.

My story on the situation, Latin America Pinning Recovery On Infrastructure Spending Plans, is at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

monday, march 09, 2009

Points South: Precious Metals Provide for Peru

As goes mining, so goes Peru. This Andean nation is the world’s No. 1 silver producer, No. 2 copper producer and No. 5 in terms of gold production. The demand for these metals over the past decade has prompted Peru’s economic resurgence just as the recent drop has put the country on a precipice.

The decline in copper prices has hit the Peruvian mining sector hard but investors seeking safe havens in precious metals have helped offset the damage to the Andean country's economoy. So far, anyway.

My post about the issue Precious Metals Provide for Peru is over at Points South, my blog on Latin American construction at ENR.com.

posted by kleph @ 8:00 am | 0 comments

thursday, march 05, 2009

The Panama Canal

Three international consortia have submitted bids to undertake the design and construction of the new locks for the Panama Canal. Canal officials estimate the work will absorb more than 60 percent of the $5.2 billion pricetag for the third lane expansion project slated for completion in 2014.

The three consortia submitting bids included; Consorcio C.A.N.A.L. led by ACS Servicios, Comunicaciones y Energia, S.L. of Spain; Consortium Bechtel, Taisei, Mitsubishi Corp., led by U.S.-based Bechtel Internacional, Inc. and Grupo Unidos por el Canal, led by Spanish company Sacyr Vallehermoso S.A.

A fourth consortium, Consorcio Atlantico-Pacifico de Panama led by Bouygues Travaux Publics of France, was approved to participate in the lock building process but did not submit a bid.

The gravity-operated, single-lane, three-step locks at the Atlantic and Pacific entrances will boast lock chambers 427 meters long by 55 m wide and 18.3 m deep with sufficient draft for the 366-m-long post-Panamax ships. They will feature rolling gates as well as water-saving basins - neither ever used on a project of this scale. read more

posted by kleph @ 7:00 am | 0 comments