Shifts in infrastructure ahead
This year has been challenging for many of our infrastructure clients, but it has also necessitated new innovations. As we face obstacles none of us could have foreseen, creativity in our work becomes increasingly important. I and several others from Mead & Hunt recently contributed to an article for Environmental Business Journal (EBJ) discussing the recent shifts in our various sectors, as well as some predictions for what the future holds.
Mead & Hunt has consistently grown across all sectors, expanding in both geography and diversity of services, all while increasing revenues to $159 million in 2019. Specifically, we’ve grown significantly in the transportation sector, aided by our acquisition of Sabra & Associates, Inc., which expanded our transportation presence in the mid-Atlantic states. Against this backdrop of growth, we discuss how recent disruptions have affected us, and what we might expect moving forward.
How has the pandemic affected markets?
When it comes to roads and highways, most states have lost substantial revenue due to the drastic decline of roadway usage through lost gas taxes, ranging from $200 million to over a billion dollars over the past several months. The aviation industry has been similarly affected—prior to COVID, air passenger levels were in a continuous growth pattern. With passenger levels at ~25% of 2019 numbers, revenue intake has been drastically cut.
Funding impacts from the pandemic have affected markets we serve on both a national and local level. These impacts vary significantly by region, and public vs. private sector. Results of the upcoming election will also affect funding across the board, including the timing and nature of a potential stimulus package. Time will tell how these impacts will ultimately play out.
The transportation sector will be transformed through technology in the coming years and decades. When it comes to traffic management, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are already being implemented in many states. Other current and future technology trends include connected and autonomous vehicles, Digital Twins, vehicle-to-roadside communications, smart highways, alternative fuels, keyless fleet management and traffic data analytics. All of these will dramatically change how people travel and how vehicles operate, and will allow for better, real-time traffic management.
Across all sectors, new tools and technology allow us to deliver projects more efficiently, tap into specialized skills more readily, and visually display alternatives and designs. For example, new applications of AR/VR in the areas of aviation and transportation can help clients, stakeholders, and the public gain understanding and visualize results well in advance of detailed plan development.
Climate crisis impacts
Large disruptors such as COVID bring home the importance of sustainability and resilience for clients. Threats stemming from the climate crisis have given rise to the increased focus on resilience planning across all markets. Due to concerns over disproportionate impacts on minorities from COVID as well as broader awareness of systemic racism, social sustainability has increased focus as well. New plans are changing some clients’ approaches to mitigate and adapt to change. In addition to all of this, regulatory updates continue to affect our work, and PFAS concerns have not disappeared.
Historically, our environmental services have supported the compliance and regulatory aspects for our highway, bridge, airport, and other infrastructure clients. Since a majority of our environmental services are directly linked to these projects advancing, we are still evaluating COVID’s effect on this service line.
2020 has certainly illustrated the interconnected nature of our markets. Environmental issues, social justice, COVID, new technology, and funding impacts all affect each market, as well as how each market interacts with each other. We must view these issues as part of a larger whole in order to move forward in ways that are effective, responsive and sustainable.
A more in-depth analysis of this discussion can be found in the article. Additionally, I will appear as a panelist for the EBJ’s November 13th webinar, which will focus on EBJ’s forecast for this evolving market, and rankings of the most influential disruptive forces in the 2020s. If you’re interested in learning more on these important topics, I highly encourage you to join. You can register online.
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