Growth will remain healthy for all three U.S. major transportation sectors (airports, ports and toll roads) this year, according to Fitch Ratings in a new report. Fitch expects passenger traffic growth to increase over 3% in 2016, with the bulk of air passenger growth coming from international hub airports. All major U.S. carriers have seen positive traffic growth through the first part of 2016, though a wide range of performance remained. JetBlue (15.2%) and Southwest Airlines (12.2%) led the way with strong increases in revenue passenger miles while increases among United Airlines (1.3%) and American Airlines (3.1%) were more marginal. Ports nationwide will continue to benefit from a stronger dollar driving imports, with twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) growing modestly last year in line with overall GDP.
A primary focus for ports remains ‘big ship readiness’. Shippers, logistics providers and ports will be keeping close watch over the expanded Panama Canal, which opened for commercial traffic this year. While large-scale shifts in cargo are not expected, some adjustments are possible.
As for toll roads, low fuel prices have boosted growth in traffic (6.6%) and revenue (8.3%) since the second half of 2015. The Southeast and Southwest U.S. have and will continue to lead in traffic performance. The higher rate of growth in revenues is reflective of typical inflationary toll rate increases, which Fitch expects to average roughly 2% over time.
A degree of uncertainty always remains for the long-term direction of the broader economy, especially after a rather volatile first three months of the year.