EXCLUSIVE: Underground Construction’s 12th Annual Municipal Survey: Year of Hope and Caution

Recession Causes Budget Concerns While Stimulus Stirs Excitement, Potential Windfalls
February 2009 Vol. 64 No.2

But stimulus aside, revenue streams very much remain a subject of concern for municipalities across the country. Overwhelmingly (70.7 percent), survey respondents believe there is a funding gap in 2009 between what is budgeted for underground piping infrastructure construction and rehabilitation, and what is actually needed to support their department’s annual needs. Most believe that an increase in spending of about 40 percent is needed just to maintain the status quo. Almost 64 percent of survey respondents expect their cities to be forced to seriously consider raising user fees – even in a recession. Cities are averaging almost four years between rate increases.

Other top concerns for cities include: government/EPA regulations, cited by 59.7 percent; finding qualified employees, cited by 37 percent; and maintain positive community relations was mentioned by 34.5 percent.

Trenchless

Trenchless construction and rehabilitation methods continue their strong position within the sewer/water market. Indeed, trenchless techniques continue to draw strong attention and increasing market acceptance. Most trenchless methods actually saw their acceptance ratings increase slightly compared to a year ago (see related chart). And the positive effects upon communities is significant, according to a Montana respondent. “We burst a sanitary sewer force main with minimal disruption to property owners. It was great public relations.”

Related a Florida municipal manager,“We just started doing it (using trenchless methods) and we love it – it is so much more efficient,”

The use of trenchless for new construction for sewer/storm sewer increased from 16.1 percent in 2007, to 18.4 percent in 2008. For water, trenchless’ share of the market was even stronger, increasing from 22.2 percent to 24.3.

How Much of the Market Is Trenchless?

With water rehab rightfully perceived as a strong, emerging market, trenchless rehab increased in 2008 to 32.5 percent, up from 30.8 percent a year earlier. The use of trenchless methods for sewer rehabilitation remained relatively flat at 69.6 percent compared to 69.7 percent a year ago.

City and consulting engineering personnel continue to embrace the assimilation of trenchless methods into their projects. Almost 66 percent of cities indicated that trenchless techniques had been utilized in 2008, in increase from 63 percent in 2007. The outlook for trenchless continues to be very bright. Of those who have not utilized trenchless methods, 82.5 percent said they plan to do so within the next five years.