TEXT-Fitch:U.S. transportation outlook stable for 2013; funding concerns remain

Thu Dec 13, 2012 8:49am EST

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Dec 13 - The outlook for airports, ports and toll roads remains stable for 2013 despite concern over the lack of a long-term federal funding solution for GARVEEs, according to a new Fitch Ratings report.

"In 2013 we expect modest growth for airports, stability for ports despite volume pressures, and toll road resiliency," said Mike McDermott, Managing Director at Fitch. "Sustainability remains elusive for GARVEEs. A continued imbalance between federal highway trust fund outlays and receipts is expected."

"Fitch will monitor progress on fiscal cliff budget negotiations, including any potential gas tax increases, in order to assess the impact on long-term GARVEE funding."

Modestly positive growth in airport traffic is expected in 2013. Enplanement trends will vary, with large hub and international gateway airports performing better than secondary hubs or regional airports with competition. A fiscal cliff scenario could disrupt the sector due to lower demand and cuts to aviation security and Federal Aviation Administration funding.

Ports will face volume pressures stemming from continuing economic challenges in the eurozone, ongoing labor disruptions in the U.S., and fragile consumer confidence in the face of the fiscal cliff. Investment in port infrastructure will be a focus for both the private and public sectors as economic recovery continues to progress.

Toll roads will be minimally affected by slowing growth or small reductions in traffic volumes due to their pricing power. The tolling of roads and bridges is expected to increase going forward due to the lack of state and local funding for infrastructure. Elasticity may be higher and the political appetite to increase tolls may be lower going forward than when the crisis began in 2007.

Fitch will host a conference call to discuss its 2013 U.S. Transportation outlook on December 14th at 11:00 AM eastern.

Dial-in details are:

--U.S. Participants: +1-877-467-8597

--International Participants: +1-706-643-6296

--Conference and Replay ID: 73938113

Replays will be available for 30 days. Replay dial-ins are accessible using the following numbers:

--U.S. Replay: +1-855-859-2056

--International Replay: +1-404-537-3406

For more information, a special report titled "2013 Outlook: U.S. Transportation Infrastructure" is available on the Fitch Ratings web site at www.fitchratings.com, or by clicking on the link below.

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