Fitch Ratings issues positive forecast or U.S. transport infrastructure.

Fitch views near-term U.S. economic trends favorably with modest 2.1% GDP growth this year even amid slower-than-expected first-quarter growth and fiscal easing.

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The outlook for U.S. transportation infrastructure remains quite healthy for the rest of this year despite a lack of clarity around the Trump administration's plans for beefing up infrastructure spending, according to Fitch Ratings in its midyear outlook report.

Fitch views near-term U.S. economic trends favorably with modest 2.1% GDP growth this year even amid slower-than-expected first-quarter growth and fiscal easing. Low fuel prices should keep travel costs affordable, while large transportation enterprises will still need to borrow debt at least for the foreseeable future in order to help provide congestion relief and serve ongoing infrastructure renewal needs. Longer term, however, in just what manner U.S. economic and fiscal policies materialize make the outlook more uncertain.

Growth in cargo traffic at U.S. airports remains solid though it will level off somewhat in the coming months.

Seth Lehman, Senior Director for Fitch, says large-hub airports are still the strongest performers "in the aggregate," though smaller regional airports are now showing stronger performance as well.

“By and large, U.S. airports have not seen broad growth in their cargo operations with mail and freight cargo experiencing volatility and uneven performance," Lehman said in an interview. "However, since the recession period of 2009/2010, Miami’s overall cargo has grown approximately 30% while smaller Richmond Capital Region airport in Virginia has grown by a robust 48%.”

Volume growth should continue to mirror that of GDP for U.S. ports for rest of the year. That said, "shipping company mergers, changing alliance structures and fluctuating freight rates will shift volumes, which could alter contractual protections for select ports," said Emma Griffith, Director.

In an interview with LM late last month, Griffith noted that “diversified” U.S. ports are likely to finish the year stronger..

The growth outlook is more moderate for U.S. toll roads for the second half of 2017. Inflationary toll increases should lead to stronger revenue growth, with much of the greenfield development still emanating from managed lanes. "Toll roads still face political risk, including federal funding uncertainty and state tolling opposition," said Tanya Langman, Director. A more cautious growth trajectory remains in the cards for public private partnerships (P3s) as well.

More state and local governments are exploring P3 financing models, though "there remains a scarcity of funding and a lack of understanding around the P3 structure, meaning most infrastructure needs will continue to be financed via more traditional means," said Scott Zuchorski, Senior Director.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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