Lack of Reauthorization Puts Future Transportation Growth at Risk
The U.S. transportation infrastructure market is expected to grow at least 5% next year, according to an annual economic forecast released December 4 by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). However, that growth could evaporate if surface transportation funding legislation is not reauthorized in a timely fashion, says ARTBA.
“The real market growth for 2020 is being fueled by increased transportation investments from federal, state and local governments,” says ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black, who conducted the analysis.
Total domestic transportation construction and related-market activity in 2020 should reach $300.4 billion, up from 2019’s $286.5 billion, after adjusting for project costs and inflation, says ARBTA.
Overall, transportation construction market activity is expected to increase or be steady in about half of the states, the ARTBA analysis shows — and California is noted as one of the largest markets expected to remain stable or grow. Yet lack of investment could temper this potential for significant growth in transportation infrastructure spending, noted Black.
Black cautions that a major “variable” in that outlook is reauthorization of the Fixing American’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act funding law, due to expire in September 2020 — and the ability of Congress to find additional revenues to support the Highway Trust Fund. “Any project delays because states are concerned about whether the next federal surface transportation bill is completed in a timely matter could temper 2020 market growth,” she explained.
Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, expressed that same concern in testimony in a House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure joint subcommittee hearing on December 5. “We need to enact a long-term, sustainable revenue solution for the Highway Trust Fund,” he explained. “Our current funding challenges demand bold action to invest in our transportation infrastructure. This action has the clear support of the American public, and it is time for the President and Congress to make it happen.”