First, the law's restructuring of the federal highway program offers state transportation departments more flexibility in their use of federal funds. This could lead to slightly increased investment in highway, bridge and pavement work above the forecast in some states. Second, MAP-21's expanded federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan program should also increase construction activity in some states.
Black also notes that major reconstruction work along the East Coast in states that were affected by Hurricane Sandy could also be a market factor in 2013 across all modes. Additional federal, state and local emergency funds for rebuilding this infrastructure could be a boost as projects get underway.
A major wild card in the forecast, Black says, is the so-called "fiscal cliff"—the dire financial situation set to occur at the beginning of 2013 if Congress and the President can't agree on tax and spending reforms. Although the "fiscal cliff" would not directly impact federal highway investment to the states, it could affect state and local finances, and thereby cause governments to pull back or delay projects. Such action in turn would have negative consequences on the highway construction market. Individual businesses may also delay capital and hiring decisions amid the uncertainty.
Bridges & TunnelsAfter a four-year run of significant market growth—reaching a record high $28.5 billion in 2012—the bridge and tunnel construction market will cool off in 2013, likely remaining flat at about $28.2 billion. The ARTBA forecast shows projects in eight states—California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington—will continue to account for about half of the U.S. market activity in this sector. With a number of major bridge projects on the horizon, however, the bridge and tunnel sector should rebound smartly in 2014. ARTBA's 2013 forecast for other transportation modes: