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The Portland metro area still boasts more construction cranes than New York, Boston or San Francisco.

PMG FILE PHOTO - A construction crane assists with the renovation of the Portland Building in 2018.The number of construction cranes towering over the Portland metropolitan area has dropped — from 27 in quarter three of 2020 to just 23 in quarter one of this year.

Of those 23 rigs, 10 are moving material for commercial projects, seven are erected at mixed-use projects, two each are working on public buildings and education projects and one each are on site at health care and hospitality facilities.

That data was compiled by Rider Levett Bucknall, whose bi-quarterly reports track the use of massive construction cranes across 14 major metro areas in America and Canada.

An accompanying report says Portland's crane count "remains stable," despite the completion of several large hospitality projects recently. "The highest concentration of cranes remains in the downtown area," the report says. "Mixed-use residential and commercial sectors are seeing an impressive boom in the region."

The number of cranes has been trending downward here since January 2018, the international construction consulting firm notes. That last time Portland's crane count was lower was in July 2016, when just 22 rigs were tallied.

Metro areas with more cranes at work include Toronto, which has deployed more than 200. Seattle, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., each have more than 40 cranes deployed as well. But the Rose City still boasts more construction activity than San Francisco, Chicago, New York or Boston, which each have less than 15 cranes.

Yet the construction industry is facing headwinds whose effects on upcoming affordable housing and school projects — not to mention the private sector — are still unknown.

The price of 1,000 board feet of lumber, which generally trades for around $400 to $600, skyrocketed to nearly $1,000 in March, and the price of copper has doubled to $4 a pound.

"My expectation is that construction price pressure will increase as the year goes on," RLB North America president Julian Anderson said, citing the ebbing of the pandemic and the passage of the American Rescue Plan. "If the Biden administration is successful in pushing through an infrastructure plan, then that should keep the momentum going for a few more years."

Zane Sparling
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