Traffic ‘chokepoint’ factor shapes bridge market future around expansion jobs

Sources: Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Ill.; CP staff

Higher volumes of vehicles on the road over the next 25 years stand to spur a 5 percent gain in cement shipments for bridges above present consumption levels. A new PCA Market Intelligence report estimates the U.S. will need as many as 140,000 new or substantially reconfigured bridges by 2040, nearly 60 percent or 81,200 of which will be concrete.

“With more people on the roads, existing bridges will increasingly become chokepoints. As a result, more cement will be needed either to build new bridges or add lanes to existing ones,” says PCA Chief Economist and Senior Vice President Ed Sullivan, author of “Bridge Market Assessment.” The overwhelming percentage of bridge cement consumption today is attributed to expansion (81 percent) versus replacement (14 percent) or rehabilitation (5 percent) work, he adds.

Through 2040, “Bridge Market Assessment” finds: Expansion projects reaching 92 percent of bridge cement consumption; baseline U.S. population growing by 59 million, a 17.4 percent increase from 2016; licensed-driver ranks growing by nearly 40 million; the number of vehicles on the road rising by nearly 53 million; total annual vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roads and highways increasing 600 billion miles; and, projected number of bridge crossings climbing from 733 billion in 2015 to nearly 867 billion. To meet traffic capacity demands, PCA expects annual bridge sector cement consumption averaging 6.2 million metric tons during the 2017-2040 window—against a 5.9 million metric ton annual average since 2010.