State departments of transportation (DOTs) and local governments committed a little more than $117 billion in funding for highway, bridge, transit, port and other transportation-related construction projects during 2012, according to new analysis of the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
ARTBA’s monthly report, “Value of Transportation Construction Put in Place,” was compiled by Dr. Alison Premo Black, the association’s chief economist. Black noted that while this represents a 1% increase over the $116 billion committed in 2011, real transportation construction activity fell well short of its 2010 peak, when $129 billion worth of construction work was “put in place” during the year, in large part because of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.
Black’s analysis also found the following changes in value by mode:
- Highways: Down 4.3% to $45.9 billion, compared with $47.9 billion in 2011. This is the only mode that did not experience an increase in construction last year;
- Bridges: Up 4.5% to $28.3 billion, compared with $27.1 billion in 2011. The total was a record for bridge construction. It remains to be seen how long the upward trend can continue, but the market should get a short-term boost from repair work on bridges damaged by Hurricane Sandy;
- Airport Runways: Up 14.1% to $4.8 billion, compared with $4.2 billion in 2011. The upward trend suggests that enactment of Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation in February 2012 is beginning to have a positive impact on airport construction;
- Subway & Light Rail: Up 16.7% to $6.6 billion, compared with $5.7 billion in 2011. Virtually all year, construction spending on transit projects exceeded the 2011 pace, including a 21% increase in December. Enactment of MAP-21 should continue to have a positive impact on this market;
- Ports: Up 10% to $1.6 billion, compared with $1.5 billion in 2011. Ports had a strong year in preparation for the expansion of the Panama Canal and the larger freight vessels it will most likely bring; and
- Railroads: Up 7.3% to $10.3 billion, compared with $9.6 billion in 2011. Private rail is benefiting from the growth of freight shipments, which generates a need for more maintenance.
ARTBA’s analysis found that transportation construction activity accounted for 13.8% of all U.S. construction work put in place, down from 14.6% during 2011 and 15% in 2010.