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Cement shortage pinching Minnesota construction industry

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Lots of construction projects are underway around Minnesota but something else is building, too: a shortage of cement.

A report from WCCO explains that contributing factors range from a late ice-out last spring to silt-clogged rivers in the summer to fires and mechanical breakdowns at Midwestern plants.

Problems with barge traffic together with congested railroads have more contractors turning to trucks to deliver the supplies they need. But a truck carries far less and WCCO says as the shortage has worsened those trucks have had to travel to other states to get filled.

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Cement suppliers are giving priority to the biggest projects, meaning the shortage is most acute for builders who need comparatively small amounts. But even the big players are affected, with the contractor building the Vikings stadium in Minneapolis telling WCCO they're dealing with partial shipments and delays.

The co-owner of Leitzen Concrete in Rochester told KTTC last week this is the worst cement shortage in decades.

Gary Leitzen says the supply is tight at a time when demand is at its peak:

"Everybody's busy, the weather is good, everybody wants to pour, there's not enough cement. So this will not end until we get very cold weather and people stop pouring concrete outside."

Then again, cold weather will also bring the end of barge shipments to Minnesota once the Mississippi River turns icy. Leitzen tells KTTC that means the impact of the shortage will linger into the spring.

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The owner of an Apple Valley concrete company told FOX 9 earlier this month one effect of the shortage will be higher prices.

Fly ash can be a cheaper substitute for cement when mixing concrete, but Peter Fisher told FOX the backlogged railroads have made fly ash scarce, as well. "If you try to go hire a contractor right now to get some work done, some concrete work, they probably wouldn't even return your call," he told the station.

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation is another heavy user of concrete feeling the pinch. It's recently slowed construction projects on State Highway 65 in Spring Lake Park and Fridley and on Interstate 94 in Monticello – a job that went through 30 truckloads of cement per day, the Monticello Times reported.

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