There are a lot of public construction projects underway in Missoula right now that involve steel,  a commodity that has taken center stage in trade negotiations between the U.S. and China. Montana Contractors Association Director Carey Hegreberg says rising prices could cause major projects to go over budget.

"If a contractor bids a project and finds out two to three months later that the price of steel has gone up 50 to 60 percent... how will they eat those costs? Some of those things remain to be seen, we're working closely with the Department of Transportation on that issue because, obviously, a bridge project, for example, has a lot of steel."

Hegreberg says the contractors association is working with state and national representatives on the issue, which has been a headache for many contractor estimates.

"Obviously the contractor is trying to push the steel supplier to lock-in a guaranteed price for a guaranteed period of time and the steel distributors are reluctant to do that in light of the uncertainty that they're looking at in terms of the marketplace. There's a lot of  concern out there. The owner of a project has a lot to be concerned about when it comes to  the escalating steel prices."

Of course, when it comes to public projects the ultimate owner of those projects is the public, namely local taxpayers.