In today’s construction news, learn that while many jurisdictions struggle to pay for basic necessities, a surprising number have spent billions on prisons and jails. Meanwhile, to maintain motorist and worker safety during weekend ramp closures on C-470 to and from U.S. 85, also known as Santa Fe Drive, in Highlands Ranch, drivers should take extra time. Finally, the top five markets with the biggest pipelines for hotel construction can be found in Lodging Econometrics’ (LE) third-quarter United States Construction Pipeline Trend Report.
Why the United States is Heavily Funding New Construction
A surprising number of states have spent billions on prisons and jails, despite the US just avoiding a recession and rising living costs. Alabama announced in September that a new jail under construction will cost $1.082 billion. Indiana began building a $1.2 billion jail that month. Nebraska is spending $350 million on a new prison, while those in Georgia want $1.69 billion for a Fulton County jail. In Alabama, which has one of the highest poverty rates, the willingness to spend so much on incarceration is astounding. The idea is equally flawed, experts believe. “Any money spent on caging human beings is not money well spent, period,” said Carmen Gutierrez, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill public policy assistant professor who studies punishment and health. “Decades of research show that incarceration does not improve public safety and harms inmates. The families and communities they come from suffer too. So the harm outweighs the good.” According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the US has 664 inmates per 100,000, significantly higher than other founding Nato members. Next highest is the UK, with 129 per 100,000 inmates. There are 1.8 million inmates in prison nationwide, but the numbers are uneven. In Alabama, Georgia, and other southern states, 1 in 100 persons are in prisons, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities. The number of people in prison has decreased since the middle of the last decade, although not all races are detained equally. Black people make up 13% of the US population but 38% of prisons, jails, and other detention facilities, according to Prison Policy Initiative data. Even though 60% of Americans are white, just 38% are imprisoned. “Incarceration is highly gendered and racialized,” Gutierrez said. Males make up 90% of jail and prison inmates, and black and brown individuals, usually Latino or Indigenous, are disproportionately jailed. After Richard Nixon’s “tough on crime” and “law and order” rhetoric in the 1970s, the US jail population soared in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. The Fair Fight Initiative, which fights mass imprisonment and structural racism, blames the “war on drugs,” mandatory minimum sentences, high bail, and a lack of mental health care for the US’s high incarceration rate. Tough on crime rhetoric persists. Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms focused on violent crime, and Donald Trump has called big cities “cesspools of bloodshed and crime”. Trump, who resides in a Florida spa resort and only travels for political rallies and court appearances, has provided no proof. Few states are trying to eliminate incarceration despite the overwhelming evidence that it is harmful. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey presented new regulations in January allowing inmates to be released early for good behavior, which critics warned would increase prison overcrowding. Ivey also pushed for the state’s expensive new prison. “New prison facilities being built in Alabama are critically important to public safety, our criminal justice system, and Alabama as a whole,” Ivey stated in September. According to US News, Alabama is the seventh poorest state and has the fifth lowest family income. A 2020 baby born in Alabama could live to be 73. It is also one of 10 mostly Republican states that has refused to use federal funds to extend Medicaid, a healthcare program for low-income citizens, which Gutierrez warned can lead to reincarceration. “To deny Medicaid expansion in a state is to exacerbate the health and wellbeing issues of poor people who cycle through jails and prisons due to poverty and poor health,” she said. “Former inmates’ health may determine their likelihood of going to jail. Because if I’m unwell, can’t work, and have mental illness or a substance use disease, I’m more visible to the police and punishment, increasing my chances of going to jail or prison.” Georgia, which has also opted out of expanded Medicaid, is trying to raise $1.7 billion for a new prison outside Atlanta, with little hint that policymakers will spend it elsewhere. This $1.2 billion project will open in 2027 in Indiana. Most agree that American jails are in poor condition. The new institution will replace Georgia’s Fulton County Jail, where Atteeyah Hollie, deputy director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, told the Guardian earlier this year that “there are daily horrors that are happening”. In July, the Department of Justice investigated the jail after claims that “an incarcerated person died covered in insects and filth, that the Fulton County jail is structurally unsafe, and that prevalent violence has resulted in serious injuries and homicides”. The Montgomery Advertiser called Alabama jails “hell” in August when the heat index hit 115F (46C) because most don’t have air conditioning. Both states have promised to improve conditions, but it seems like the billions being spent on new prisons and jails could be better spent elsewhere. Jacob Kang-Brown, senior research fellow at Vera Institute, which fights overcriminalization and mass imprisonment, suggested funding education, affordable housing, and healthcare. “The US social welfare safety net has been underfunded for decades. This contributes to our heavy expenditure on incarceration. The cycle is negative, Kang-Brown added. Trump signed the bipartisan First Step Act, a prison and sentencing reform package that improved rehabilitative programs for inmates, increased early parole for good behavior, and decreased mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. Republicans, Democrats, and advocates all supported the act. Republicans distanced themselves from the First Step Act in the 2022 midterm elections as violent crime increased, and Trump, despite his involvement in the legislation, would not say whether he still supported it when the New York Times asked. Trump’s closest GOP presidential contender, Ron DeSantis, wants to repeal it. “Public safety is a major concern, and politicians often throw money at it without thinking about what that means and how to solve it,” Kang-Brown said. Many individuals appear more comfortable investing in law enforcement and prisons than in real initiatives, like affordable housing, that can promote public safety.
Long Weekend Ramp Anticipated U.S. 85 C-470 Ramp Closures for Building
The first two weekends in November, Highlands Ranch C-470 ramps at U.S. 85 will be detoured.
Due to weekend ramp restrictions, Highlands Ranch drivers should take extra time to navigate C-470 to and from U.S. 85, also known as Santa Fe Navigate. The following closures and detours will protect vehicle and worker safety during bridge and ramp reconstruction:
Eastbound C-470 off-ramp to U.S. 85 after 9 p.m. Nov. 4—5 a.m. On Tuesday, November 7, eastbound off-ramp traffic will continue east on C-470 and exit on Lucent Boulevard (Exit 18), utilize the westbound C-470 on-ramp, and then take Exit 16 to access U.S. 85.
From 9 p.m., westbound C-470 on-ramp from U.S. 85. Nov. 11—5 a.m. Nov. 14, Tuesday
Westbound detour Start eastbound on C-470 and exit on Lucent Boulevard (Exit 18). Turn left onto Lucent Boulevard for C-470.
On- and off-ramps at C-470 will be removed and repaved, and embankment and wall work will finish a large component of a new U.S. 85 bridge. The work is a milestone in the project to widen U.S. 85 from Highlands Ranch Parkway to just north of C-470 and enhance traffic flow at multiple crossings, including this interchange.
Take another route or allow more time. Watch for staff, follow speed limits, and avoid distracted driving in work zones.
If rain delays this job, staff will undertake it later.
Douglas County is improving safety and mobility along US 85 from Highlands Ranch Parkway to just north of C-470 with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Denver Regional Council of Governments, FHWA, Highlands Ranch Metro District, and Chatfield Basin developers.
Dallas Controls the Most U.S. Hotel Construction Projects in Q3 2023
According to Lodging Econometrics (LE)’s third quarter United States Construction Pipeline Trend Report, Dallas had an all-time high of 189 projects/21,840 rooms, followed by Atlanta with 140 projects/17,775 rooms and Nashville with 122 projects/16,046 rooms. Phoenix and the Inland Empire follow with 119 projects/16,455 and 117 projects/11,784 rooms, respectively.
NYC has the most projects under development, 46/8,386 rooms, as Q3 end. Phoenix has 26 projects/5,353 rooms, Atlanta 26/4,354, Dallas 25/3,178, and the Inland Empire 23/2,386.
The most projects expected to commence in the next year are in Dallas (80/9,021), followed by Atlanta (60/7,311), Austin (47/5,683), the Inland Empire (47/4,668), and Los Angeles (46/7,113).
At the end of the third quarter, Dallas had 84 projects/9,641 rooms in early planning, followed by Nashville with 59 projects/7,176 rooms, Atlanta with 54 projects/6,110 rooms, Los Angeles with 53 projects/8,699 rooms, and Phoenix with 51 projects/6,425 rooms.
Orlando had the most third-quarter projects announced with 10 projects/2,217 rooms, followed by Phoenix with 9/1,457, Dallas with 9,003, Nashville with 8,900, and Atlanta with 8/782.
A solid U.S. refurbishment and conversion pipeline continues at 1,912 hotels/285,568 rooms in Q3. At quarter’s end, 40 of the top 50 U.S. markets had 10 or more hotels under refurbishment or conversion. Atlanta has the most potential renovation or conversion projects at 40/4,307 rooms in Q3.
The US opened 345 hotels with 41,115 rooms in the first three quarters of 2023. Through Q3, 49% of these new hotels opened in the top 50 U.S. markets. New York City is the market with the most new openings through Q3, followed by Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, and Austin.
New York City is expected to open the most new hotels in 2023, followed by Houston, Atlanta, the Inland Empire, and Dallas. New York City has opened the most hotels each year for three years and is expected to continue until 2024. LE experts estimate 24 new hotels/2,874 rooms will open in Atlanta in 2025, surpassing NYC.
Summary of today’s construction news
In summary, prison does not increase public safety, according to studies; “tough-on-crime” policies do. Republicans are the ones driving jail investment.
Meanwhile, during these closures, workers will finish building embankments and walls to complete a significant piece of a new U.S. 85 bridge, as well as remove old asphalt and lay new asphalt on the C-470 on- and off-ramps. The project to widen U.S. 85 from Highlands Ranch Parkway to just north of C-470 and enhance traffic flow at multiple crossings, including this interchange, is nearing a significant milestone with the completion of this work.
Finally, in terms of new hotel openings, the U.S. markets expected to have the most in 2023 are New York City (30 projects/5,706 rooms), Houston (13 projects/1,660 rooms), Atlanta (13 projects/1,279 rooms), the Inland Empire (13 projects/1,141 rooms), and Dallas (11 projects/1,775 rooms).