Transportation construction market sees record growth in February

The transportation construction market in February set an all-time record for that month due largely to good weather and increased state spending.

The latest data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed the value of work performed on transportation construction projects was up nearly 17 percent from February of last year.

William Buechner, vice president of economics and research for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, said the combination of exceptional weather for much of the country during the winter and strengthening state budgets helped spur the market’s growth.

“For contractors, this is really good,” he said. “Over the long term it will be driven less by weather and more by the state funding to generate new projects.”

During January and February, more than $10.6 billion of construction work was performed on transportation projects – 14 percent more than during the first two months of 2004. Buechner said February is normally one of the weaker months of the year for transportation construction. He said early growth for last year showed improvement from 2003, something that 2005 appears to mirror.

The strongest growth occurred in the two largest transportation markets, highways and airports, up 18 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

Congress’s eight-month extension of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century also could have played a role in construction market growth. Buechner said many states will benefit from the federal funding, but a long-term program needs to be implemented.

“What’s ideal is a well funded, multi-year deal,” he said.

Volatile steel prices may be affecting transportation construction as well. The number of bridges being built slowed in 2004, but this year’s numbers indicate a slight rebound, Buechner said.

“There’s just a normal expansion for construction work being done,” Buechner said. “It will be interesting to see if the trend continues.”

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at