Road, bridge market could take a tumble

PCA’s chief economist paints a grim picture heading into 2020

January 23, 2019
Road, bridge construction

According to Portland Cement Association Executive Vice President and Chief Economist Ed Sullivan, Main Street is fine. It’s the pavement that needs work.

Sullivan delivered his annual PCA Market Outlook during the opening day of the World of Concrete in Las Vegas on Jan. 22. Despite the government shutdown and a turbulent Wall Street, Sullivan said jobs are still being created, unemployment is down and home prices and consumer confidence continue to rise. The overall economy is good and it may take some time for another recession to set in. However, there are troubling signs in the public construction sector, which includes the road and bridge market. Sullivan said do not expect President Trump’s infrastructure bill to be the white knight it has been billed to be.

“It’s going to be a smaller knight riding in on a donkey,” Sullivan quipped.

An aging population in the U.S. will force Congress to find more funding for Medicare and Medicaid, leaving President Trump’s proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill more fantasy than reality because the money to fund will be nowhere to be found.

Sullivan also predicts transportation and highway spending at the state level will take a slight downturn heading into 2020. He again called for a rise in the federal gas tax and the implementation of a vehicle mile tax, but said the chances of both passing through Congress were unlikely until after the next presidential election.