What's Ahead For Concrete Pavements

Sept. 28, 2010

2006 is done and completed and it proved to be an interesting year for the concrete pavement industry. The 2006 construction season proved to be full of challenges. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's (WisDOT) highway program was smaller than 2005 at 2.6 million square yards. Large paving projects on USH 151 from Columbus to Sun Prairie, Interstate 90/94 in northern Dane County, STH 57 in Door County and USH141 at Oconto were the cornerstone of our highway paving program. The flagship project was the project on Interstate 90/94 with an accelerated construction schedule to have all paving completed by the July 4 holiday. It was also the first performance-related specification project in Wisconsin with Trierweiler Construction Company doing the paving. The 2006 airport program was at 185,000 square yards. The municipal paving market in 2006 was approximately 10 percent larger than 2005. It is our conjecture that the impacts of the high oil prices translated to as much as 30 percent to 40 percent higher asphalt pavement prices that contributed to our gain.

WCPA and WisDOT again completed significant revisions to the Quality Management Program (QMP) specifications. The major changes included the specification to cover small quantities of work and the ancillary concrete specification becoming incidental to the work. More significant changes are anticipated in the upcoming year with the strength specification being the emphasis. Warranties continue to be a priority for WisDOT management and the industry continues to offer all assistance to meet their goal of 100-percent warranty in the upcoming years. The industry looks forward to developing and bidding additional performance-related specifications. Payment based upon the comparison to lifecycle cost and quality delivered seems to be an interesting topic for everyone.

The 2007 WisDOT highway program has quantities for concrete paving estimated at 1.4 million square yards. This is a significant decrease from the levels let by WisDOT over the last 10 years. This is the lowest level of concrete paving since 1982. The main issue appears to be a related timing of the major program projects and their delays in the environmental process. Paving work on projects on USH 10, Stevens Point to Waupaca and USH151 Fond du Lac to Madison look to be the heart of our program. The remainder of the WisDOT work is a good mixture of urban and rural projects. The level of the program is very concerning; we have three paving companies in Wisconsin that could pave the entire program with an additional seven to eight small companies also looking for work. The winter months will be dedicated to working with WisDOT to get a recovery in 2008 and 2009.

The airport market and municipal paving market in 2007 look consistent in size with 2006. We anticipate the airport market will be approximately 225,000 square yards, and the municipal market is estimated at 800,000 square yards in 2007. WCPA continues to encourage early lettings for this work. Because the competition is so strong in the concrete paving industry, we believe that the cities, letting their projects early, will encourage highly competitive prices for them. We believe this is also important because it appears that the oil and asphalt prices will stay high for the near term. This makes concrete pavement more competitive in the municipal market. It is our hope that we will have a strong program in this market area. We continue to encourage early lettings for the municipalities to provide them with the most competitive prices.