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Transportation construction market 2019 forecast

Transportation construction market 2019 forecast

Investments by all levels of government expected to drive growth across all modes.

The U.S. transportation infrastructure market is expected to grow 4.2 percent in 2019, according to the annual economic forecast by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). Increased transportation investment by federal, state, and local governments will help drive the growth across all modes, ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black, Ph.D., said.

Total domestic transportation construction and related market activity is projected to reach $278.1 billion, up from 2018’s $266.9 billion, after adjusting for project costs and inflation. The transportation construction market also grew by 4.2 percent in 2018 compared with 2017, driven largely by gains in airport terminal and runway construction, which increased by $5.8 billion, or 33 percent. Spending on public highway and street construction increased by $2.7 billion in 2018.

One wild card in the forecast, Black said, is the outlook for the scheduled 2020 reauthorization of the FAST Act surface transportation law and the ability of Congress to find additional revenues to support the Highway Trust Fund. “If states start delaying transportation improvement projects in response to uncertainty over the future of the federal program, it will temper 2019 market growth,” she said.

Although the overall U.S. transportation infrastructure market will see growth next year, the situation will likely vary significantly by state and region, according to Black. Highway construction market activity is expected to increase in about half of the states and Washington, D.C. The market should be steady in another five states, with activity expected to slow down in the remaining 20 states.

Other market risks include uncertainty over material prices, increased labor costs, and potential labor shortages in some regional markets.   

Among the other findings in Black’s forecast:

Public and private highway, street, and related construction

  • The real value of public highway, street, and related work by state transportation departments and local governments — the largest market sector — is expected to increase by 5 percent to $66.5 billion after growing 4.5 percent in 2018.
  • Work on private highways, bridges, parking lots, and driveways will increase from $65.9 billion in 2018 to $69.1 billion in 2019 and will continue to grow during the next five years as market activity increases in those sectors.

Bridges and tunnels   

  • The pace of bridge and tunnel work slowed in 2018 but is expected to grow 1.5 percent next year to $31.7 billion, with the pace increasing to more than 2 percent annually in 2020 and beyond.

Light rail, subways, and railroads   

  • Public transit and rail construction is expected to increase from $19 billion in 2018 to $20 billion in 2019, a 5.7 percent increase.
  • Subway and light rail investment is expected to reach a new record level, increasing from $7.7 billion in 2018 to $8.2 billion in 2019.

Airport runways and terminals   

  • After growing 38 percent in 2018, airport terminal and related work, including structures such as parking garages, hangars, air freight terminals, and traffic towers, is expected to increase from $18.4 billion in 2018 to $19.2 billion, an increase of 4.5 percent.
  • Runway work, which was up 18 percent in 2018, is forecasted to increase from $4.9 billion in 2018 to $5.1 billion in 2019.

Ports and waterways   

  • The value of port and waterway investment is expected to grow 3 percent to $2.6 billion in 2019. Construction activity in 2018 was $2.5 billion, up from $2.2 billion in 2017.

ARTBA’s forecast is based on a series of proprietary econometric models for each mode and analysis of federal, state, and local data and market intelligence. The full forecast can be purchased at www.artbastore.org.

Information provided by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (www.artba.org).