ARTBA predicts US construction infrastructure growth
First publishedon www.WorldHighways.com
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s (ARTBA) annual forecast suggests that the US transportation construction infrastructure market will show modest growth in 2013. According to ARTBA’s forecast, this segment will increase 3% to US$130.5 billion in 2013. The association’s chief economist, Dr Alison Premo Black, said that growth is expected in highway and street pavements, private work for driveways and parking lots and also airport terminal and runway work. But ARTBA predicts the bridge market, which has shown substantial growth over the last 10 years, will remain flat in 2013.
The federal surface transportation program, combined with state and local government transportation investments, are the most significant drivers of the national transportation infrastructure construction market. According to Dr Black, the pavements market will be sluggish in 2013, growing 2.8% to $58.4 billion. This includes $47.7 billion in public and private investment in highways, roads and streets, and $10.7 billion in largely private investments in parking lots, driveways and related structures.
With no new real federal money in the 2012 MAP-21 surface transportation law, still recovering state and local tax collections and modest new housing starts, the pavements market will be uneven across the nation. Pavement work is anticipated to be down in 25 states. Growth above a 5% range is expected in 19 states.
However, there are at least two developments related to MAP-21 that could lead to additional market activity in the short term and strengthen the market in 2013 and 2014, according to Dr Black. First, the law’s restructuring of the federal highway program offers state transportation departments more flexibility in their use of federal funds. This could lead to slightly increased investment in highway, bridge and pavement work above the forecast in some states. Second, MAP-21’s expanded federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program should also increase construction activity in some states.
Dr Black also noted that major reconstruction work along the East Coast in states that were affected by Hurricane Sandy could also be a market factor in 2013. Additional federal, state and local emergency funds for rebuilding this infrastructure could be a boost as projects get underway.
A major wild card in the forecast, Dr Black said, is the fiscal cliff, if the congress and president prove unable to agree on tax and spending reforms. Although the fiscal cliff would not directly impact federal highway investment to the states, it could affect state and local finances, and thereby cause governments to pull back or delay projects.
But after a four-year run of significant market growth, reaching a record high $28.5 billion in 2012, Dr Black believes the bridge and tunnel construction market will cool off in 2013, likely remaining flat at about $28.2 billion. The ARTBA forecast shows projects in eight states—California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington—will continue to account for about half of the US bridge activity. With a number of major bridge projects on the horizon, however, the bridge and tunnel sector could rebound in 2014.