Market report: Bridges good, pavement not so good

(Photo: Cindy Cornett Seigle / Flickr)(Photo: Cindy Cornett Seigle / Flickr)

American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist and Policy VP Alison Premo Black said the bridge market is “showing some surprising strength,” and new Q1 numbers suggest it will be an ongoing strength.

Black was speaking at the ARTBA Federal Issues program in D.C. But, she said, tomorrow she’ll dig into pavement market numbers and indicated she would be, to put it bluntly, not so optimistic.

According to Black a lot of long-term, ongoing projects have not seen the pullbacks from state DOTs and local governments that has been the case in the pavement market. The real value of bridge work based on first quarter numbers is “pretty healthy,” said Black.

The value of awards compared to last year’s first quarter is up in 23 states, two states are within 5 percent of their last year figure and 25 states are down.  As always big projects and total work value from some of the big states are very influential in the numbers. Black predicts something similar next year but then sees an expansion of the market as the economy picks up.

Usually after a multi-year surface transportation bill is passed the bridge market responds with more work, a factor of the length of time it takes to go from plan to completion in bridge building. But, says Black, this is not so with MAP-21, and she credits a number of factors: Levels of work were already high (and part of that level came from more active state funding), MAP-21 funding levels were predictable and MAP-21 was for only two years.