Market report: Weather factors into low highway market

(Photo: Simo ubuntu / Flickr)(Photo: Simo ubuntu / Flickr)

Just how much of a factor was winter weather in highway construction work in the first three months of this year?

Perhaps quite a significant factor.

Comparing the value of work being done Q1 this year with the same quarter last year, and also comparing year-to-year rolling numbers, American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chief Economist and Policy VP Alison Premo Black said at the ARTBA Federal Issues program in Washington, D.C., she sees similar numbers: no great increase in work but no great fallback either.

Weather, she said, may, however, have been a factor in limiting work. A number of ARTBA’s contractor members responded to surveys indicating the weather had played havoc with their scheduled work.

On the other hand, the highway market is still underperforming, and Black certainly isn’t indicating that better weather would have significantly improved the market. But, she said, as is the usual post-winter practice, examining May and June data may give us the best indicator of how 2013 will look when it goes in the books as these numbers give us first data on the value of work being done as the season gets underway for real.

As I reported from here yesterday, Black sees the bridge market in far better shape. Today she sees some strong numbers from airport work, largely a result of a rising economy that is seeing more air travelers. There are also good numbers from the ports segment of the construction industry (thank you wider Panama Canal!) and from subway and light rail work.

With economic recovery slow and the new surface transition legislation MAP-21 essentially flat lining the amount of federal dollars available for highway work at an inadequate level, it’s my guess Black is several fiscal quarter reports away from seeing anything really optimistic in highway construction contract values.