Optimism about the prospects for economic growth, coupled with increases in federal funding, will see the U.S. highway construction market grow by 4.2% in 2004. That's the view of William Buechner, chief economist for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.
The U.S. Congress is expected to approve a budget of $33.6 billion for highway investment in 2004, which would be an increase of $2 billion over 2003 levels. The total value of construction work to be performed on highway and bridge projects in 2004 is projected at a record $62.5 billion, up from $60 billion in 2003.
Recent strengthening of the U.S. economy will be a contributing factor to the increased highway work, says Buechner. Economists expect the economy to grow by 3.9% in 2004, he says, and to move above 4% growth in 2005.
Meanwhile, construction work performed on airport runways, taxiways and related projects was down in 2003, partly due to the diversion of more than $500 million of airport construction funds to airport security the past two years. Legislation has been enacted to discourage this diversion in the future; should the diversions cease, then airport construction should see modest growth in 2004, Buechner says.
Transit and light rail construction slowed slightly in 2003, but should see a modest growth in 2004 thanks to a slight increase in federal funding — from $7.18 billion in 2003 to $7.3 billion this year.