Some industry experts are saying that the road and bridge construction market bottomed out after the first quarter in 2009. Contractors, however, are still in need of being air-lifted out of what has been the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression.
According to a recent Roads & Bridges survey, over 80% of the road- and bridge-builder respondents expect business in 2010 to be either flat or down. Only 19.8% expect to work more jobs next year.
As for when the recovery will be official, 37.7% believe it will not happen until 2012, while 33.1% are a little more positive, saying it will be felt by the second quarter of 2011.
Equipment purchasing also looked weak, with 36.9% responding that they do not plan to rent or purchase machines in 2010, and 36.9% indicating they only plan to rent. Just over 26% actually plan to buy new equipment.
There are signs that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds are finally reaching the contractors’ payroll. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, road and bridge builders had received $1.4 billion in payments through Aug. 31. The effect of the stimulus money is mixed among Roads & Bridges contractors surveyed.
Only 55% say they have won stimulus jobs in 2009, and when asked what they thought of the ARRA program, a strong 65.1% are reserving their opinion until 2010 when more money is expected to be released. Just over 31% said the emergency funding has only prevented them from making layoffs, while a paltry 3.6% have actually hired additional workers.
It may be awhile before Congress addresses long-term funding relief for the industry.
At press time, the House of Representatives passed a three-month extension of SAFETEA-LU introduced by Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.).
Oberstar was hoping to use the time to convince lawmakers to pass his six-year, $500 billion bill by the end of the year.
Those on the Senate side, however, still appeared to be favoring the Obama administration’s proposed 18-month funding extension, and as SAFETEA-LU was on the verge of expiring the word that was floating around the Congressional chambers was that a 30-day extension would be passed.