Although the presidential campaign raised hopes of a massive infusion of federal dollars into highways and bridges, spending has dropped by 7% in the past 12 months, according to Alison Black, senior vice president and chief economist of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.
“We have definitely seen a bit of a pause in the strong, upward momentum,” Black said. After bouncing back from the recession, growth in highway work also has stalled nationally over the past year to 18 months, she added.
Barring a major breakthrough on a federal infrastructure bill, 2018 promises more of the same, with a mix of heavy spending by some states offset by flat budgets or even declines in others. “It’s a pretty status quo market,” she said. However, that varies by state, with Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington increasing spending on roads and bridges, Black noted. The upward trend in these states is expected to carry forward through 2018.
Further, the California Legislature has boosted funding for work on roads and bridges, with the state Transportation Commission rolling out $328 million for projects aimed at relieving traffic congestion and repairing bridges, according to California’s transportation department, also known as Caltrans.
“This list of multimodal and fix-it-first projects help us keep our commitment to Californians to maintain and improve the transportation system for economic and quality-of-life benefits,” said Malcolm Dougherty, director of Caltrans, in a press statement.
Michael McArdle, chief development officer at engineering and design firm VHB Inc., says North Carolina should be added to the growth column, too.
VHB has been busy in the Tar Heel State working on bridges as well as highway safety and environmental projects, as North Carolina transportation officials are now required to farm out 70% of this work, he said.
Maryland raised its gas tax, freeing up more money for roads and bridges, while Virginia transportation officials are gearing up to seek bids early next year on the Fredericksburg extension, which would lengthen I-95 express lanes 10 miles south of Route 610, said Stephen Skippen, senior project manager at Skanska.
Sam Patel, project estimator for megaprojects at Fort Myer Construction Corp. in Washington, D.C., says there’s a healthy workload ahead in 2018. In particular, his company is preparing to bid on more than $240 million in new highway work in Maryland.
Eric Rodriguez, senior consultant at Interface Consulting, predicts even more public-private partnerships in 2018. Examples include a new toll road in Tennessee and roadwork in the Houston area.
“Obviously, the reason for that is in response to costs,” Rodriguez says. “It’s a way do to it a little more efficiently and get everyone involved in the process and on the same page early on.”