Fitch Ratings-New York-10 October 2013: U.S. transportation performance remains sensitive to downside risks, mostly tied to domestic and global economic recoveries, as growth for the first six months of 2013 was slow, according to a new Fitch Ratings report.
‘Flat to modest improvement in volumes is expected over the next three to six months. Despite the expectation of conservative growth, Fitch views the Rating Outlooks across airports, ports, and toll roads to remain stable,’ said Seth Lehman, Senior Director in Fitch’s Global Infrastructure and
Project Finance Group.
Alliances are key for airports and ports. While the merger of American Airlines and US Airways has stalled, a successful merger would create a third domestic carrier with significant global route networks. In shipping, an increase in collaboration between major global shipping lines may alter cargo volumes at U.S. ports. For airports, total passenger enplanements are now nearing peak levels last seen in 2007. Through the first six months of 2013, slightly more than half of Fitch rated airports have had positive traffic growth, with 22 percent experiencing three percent growth. Major U.S. airlines have seen relatively high load factors of 80-85 percent with JetBlue and US Airways leading in passenger and capacity growth.
U.S. ports are showing mixed results for the first half of 2013, with half showing year-over-year declines and half showing modest gains. Midyear 2013 figures for the first six months through June indicate a year-over-year decline of approximately 1.2 percent, weaker than the 0.6 percent overall growth for calendar year 2012.
Traffic and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) declines were offset by above-inflationary toll increases, resulting in revenue growth of 4.6 percent in the year to June 2013. However, the differential between revenue and traffic/VMT growth rates is narrowing, indicating road operators’ weakening pricing power. Expressways saw continued traffic growth, while turnpike, bridge and stand-alone categories all experienced declines. Southwest, West and Midwest regions experienced traffic growth, while Southeast traffic was flat.