In today’s construction news, read that several road projects in West Michigan are prepared to begin construction by the Michigan Department of Transportation in 2024, which will most certainly affect your commute at some point. On the other hand, two United States contractors have entered guilty pleas in a federal court for their roles in a “rent-a-vet” scam in which they solicited construction contracts by pretending to be handicapped veterans. Lastly, the US Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) has today announced that Lithium Nevada Corp., a subsidiary of Lithium Americas Corp., has been conditionally committed to a $2.26 billion loan. This loan will assist in financing the construction of a lithium carbonate processing plant in Humboldt County, Nevada, at Thacker Pass.

Road Construction Projects in West Michigan in 2024 that Might Affect your Commute

Original Source: Here are the 2024 West Michigan road construction projects that will likely impact your commute

The Michigan Department of Transportation is starting several West Michigan road projects that will likely affect your travel in 2024. 

Crews will reconstruct highways, bridges, and resurface US-131, I-196, and I-96. 

MDOT estimates that rebuilding and modernizing US-131 will cost over $500 million. The 13 Michigan “Grand Region” counties have a $100 million annual budget.

Since a full reconstruction isn’t in the budget, these incremental modifications will have to do.

Here are some of the most significant:

US-131 over Plaster Creek 

Starting in late March, US-131 near downtown Grand Rapids will be closed for bridge work.

US-131’s two Plaster Creek bridges are being upgraded and repaired by MDOT for $6.2 million.

First, 28th Street will close northbound US-131 for a month. Burton Street through downtown will have one lane. Southbound US-131 will close at Burton Street for a month.

A $6.2 million investment improved north and southbound bridges. 

Sunday, March 31, 2024 

Rerouted and closed lanes.

Construction on M-11 (28th Street) bridge across Little Plaster Creek and US-131 from 28th Street to Pearl Street involves preparing concrete joints. 

It will affect traffic because we must divert 120,000 vehicles on that road. Outside of Detroit, it’s Michigan’s busiest highway. MDOT Communications Representative John Richard stated this will be disruptive.

MDOT calls the project “extremely necessary fix.”

It needs it badly. That area between M-11, 28th Street, to 196. We’ve studied that section for years on PEL. It must be rebuilt “said Richard.

October-November 2024

Rerouted and closed lanes.

100th–76th Street US-131 

The Michigan Department of Transportation is examining a $70 million rebuild of US-131 from 76th to 100th Street in Byron Township. 

The project adds weave/merge lanes between 76th and 84th Street interchanges. It will extend the 76th Street on ramp to the 84th Street off ramp on southbound US-131 and the 84th Street on ramp to the 76th Street off ramp on northbound.  

April 2024–Winter 2026

Project impacts: lane and ramp closures, short-term US-131 delays.

US-131 northbound to I-96/M-37 (Alpine Avenue) 

Crews will replace the northbound US-131 ramp to I-96 and M-37 (Alpine Avenue). 

May 2023–October 2024

Impacts: ramp/lane closures. 

The M-6/I-96 interchange 

Michigan Department of Transportation crews will rebuild M-6 and I-96 interchange ramps. 

From May to November 2024

Impacts: ramp/lane closures.

Date: April 2024 to July 2024 Segwun Avenue Bridge across I-96

Impacts: lane closures

M-89/M-40/Hubbard Intersection 

Allegan crews will create a roundabout and resurface M-89 between M-222 and 29th Street. 

From March to November 2024

Impacts: lane closures

From US 21 in Holland to 88th Avenue in Zeeland, I-196 Business Loop 

Work will begin rebuilding the I-196 Business Loop from Holland to Zeeland this spring. 

From April to November 2024

Impacts: lane closures

Bliss Road to Sunfield Road I-96

Between Bliss Road and Sunfield Road, crews will upgrade Jordan Lake Road over I-96 in Ionia County. 

From June 2024 to Fall 2026

Impacts: lane closures 

Virtual Public Meeting

Want to know more about these projects?

MDOT authorities will hold a virtual public meeting on Thursday, March 21, 2024, from 5 to 6 p.m.

US Contractors Enter guilty Pleas to Fraud Involving “rent-a-vet”

Original Source: US contractors plead guilty to ‘rent-a-vet’ fraud

Before United States District Judge William S. Stickman IV, Myrtle Beach residents Edward DiGorio Jr., 65, and Edward Kessler, 68, pled guilty to two fraud offenses. DiGorio and Kessler lived in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh construction companies Addvetco Inc. and Hi-Def Contracting Inc. were owned by DiGorio and Kessler.

They both won VA “set-aside” contracts for small enterprises owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans of the U.S. military and pre-certified as SDVOBs.

DiGorio and Kessler were neither crippled nor war veterans.

Instead, they bribed service-disabled veterans to pretend to own the enterprises.

From 2007 to 2018, Addvetco and Hi-Def won 67 SDVOB contracts, 50 of which were $1 million or more.

DiGorio and Kessler pleaded guilty to two offenses related to the companies’ two most recent contracts, for which they made over $400,000.

Judge Stickman sentenced both offenders on July 11, 2024. The statute allows a 10-year prison sentence, a $1 million fine, or both at each count. The federal Sentencing Guidelines base sentences on the defendant’s prior criminal history and the nature of the charges.

LPO Conditionally Commits to Finance Nevada Lithium Processing Plant Construction with Lithium Americas Corp

Original Source: LPO Announces Conditional Commitment to Lithium Americas Corp. to Help Finance the Construction of a Lithium Processing Plant in Nevada

Today, the DOE Loan Programs Office (LPO) announced a conditional commitment to Lithium Nevada Corp., a subsidiary of Lithium Americas Corp., for a $2.26 billion loan to build a lithium carbonate processing plant at Thacker Pass in Humboldt County, Nevada. The project is near North America’s largest lithium mine. The project is expected to produce 40,000 metric tons of battery-grade lithium carbonate for lithium-ion batteries once operational. Today’s announcement reinforces the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government strategy to bolstering America’s key materials supply chain, which is crucial to constructing a clean transportation future and boosting national and energy security.

GM invested in Lithium America’s shares and is likely to be a long-term lithium carbonate buyer. Thacker Pass lithium carbonate may provide batteries for 800,000 electric vehicles (EVs) every year, saving 317 million gallons of gasoline. The project is expected to create 1,800 construction jobs and 360 operations jobs, demonstrating President Biden’s commitment to ensuring the historic transition to a clean energy future provides economic opportunity in communities across the country, including those that have been left behind.

This initiative supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to build and secure reliable, sustainable domestic supply chains for crucial materials, which are essential to meeting our ambitious clean energy and climate goals and reducing our dependence on China. 

EV adoption, which has accelerated under President Biden, will increase lithium carbonate demand dramatically. Develop this project to strengthen domestic battery supply chains and reduce dependency on unreliable overseas suppliers. Domestic automakers will look to the project for lithium carbonate since it meets the Inflation Reduction Act’s Made in America and sourcing requirements. 

The project proponent has also been working with the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe to assist Tribal members and nearby towns. Lithium Americas and the Tribe signed a formal Community Benefits Agreement in 2022 to develop Fort McDermitt infrastructure, offer Tribal people with job training and employment, and support cultural education and preservation. 

Union labor will help the Thacker Pass project produce good-paying, high-quality employment as part of President Biden’s Investing in America initiative. For project construction, the engineering, procurement, and construction management contractor signed a National Construction Agreement (Project Labor Agreement) with North America’s Building Trades Unions. This would reduce construction risk, ensure skilled labor, handle remote site issues, and prioritize local and regional skilled craft workers, especially Native Americans and under-represented communities.

LPO must examine the project under NEPA before issuing the loan. The Bureau of property Management (BLM) has developed a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision for the project on public property. If LPO uses the finance, it will help build and launch the lithium carbonate processing facilities and infrastructure under the BLM Final EIS. September 29, 2023, LPO adopted the BLM EIS. Until financial close, LPO will work on NEPA and other regulations. 

The Advanced Technology cars Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program supports U.S. manufacturing of advanced technology cars, qualified components, and fuel-efficient materials. Since 2022, LPO has announced nine conditional commitments and two concluded loans for ATVM projects to support, onshore, or re-shore supply chains projects to meet the Biden-Harris Administration’s lofty EV ambitions. 

DOE conducts thorough due diligence on all projects, including a borrower or sponsor’s foreign government ties.

The Department’s conditional commitment to finance the project requires the company to meet technical, legal, environmental, and financial conditions before entering into definitive financing arrangements and funding the loan.

Summary of today’s construction news

To sum it up, drivers should anticipate orange barrels and delays this spring and summer due to construction projects such as the reconstruction of US-131, I-96, and I-196, as well as enhancements to bridges. These little changes will have to do for the time being, as a complete reconstruction isn’t in the budget.

On the other hand, on July 11, 2024, Judge Stickman will sentence the two offenders. Each offense carries with it the possibility of a fine of up to $1 million, a prison term of up to 10 years, or both, according to the law. The severity of the charges and the defendant’s criminal history, if any, determine the actual sentence under the federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Lastly, the Department of Energy (DOE) does thorough due diligence on all prospective deals, regardless of whether they involve a borrower or sponsor, and this includes investigating any possible ties to foreign governments.

 Although the Department has expressed its intention to fund the project through this conditional commitment, the loan will not be finalized and the project will not go forward until the company meets several financial, technical, legal, and environmental requirements.