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01 Dec 2015
NOTE: On December 01, 2015, the press release was corrected as follows: In the first sentence of the eighth paragraph, “North Carolina Turnpike Authority (Aa2 stable)” was amended to “North Carolina Turnpike Authority (Triangle Expressway)(Baa3 stable)”. Revised release follows.
New York, December 01, 2015 -- Moody's Investors Service has revised its outlook for the US toll
road industry to positive from stable, reflecting stronger-than-expected
recovery in 2015 traffic growth, which is expected to continue into
next year. Moody's anticipates a median traffic growth of
3% through 2016 among 45 rated toll roads, according to the
report, "Toll Roads -- US: 2016 Outlook --
Jump in Traffic Growth Drives Change to Positive."
"We expect that low gasoline prices and continued improvement in
the US economy will support the continued gains in traffic,"
says Maria Matesanz, Moody's Senior Vice President and the
lead author of the outlook.
Moody's 3% growth rate projection is based on a preliminary
study showing median toll road traffic growth of 5.7% through
June 2015, based on information from 13 rated toll roads.
This significantly exceeds the previous 2015 forecast of 1% to
2% growth for the toll roads Moody's rates.
The growth in traffic is underpinned by expectations of sustained low
gas prices and gains in the US economy, which the Moody's
Macroeconomic Board expects to expand between 2% and 3%
in 2015 and 2016. In past years, growth in vehicle miles
traveled has been roughly in sync with both average growth in the retail
price of gasoline and real growth in GDP.
In 2015 and 2016, Moody's expects median toll revenue to increase
between 5% and 6%, owing to traffic growth and annual
toll rate increases. Of the 45 Moody's-rated toll
roads, about 30% have put annual toll increases or inflation-indexed
toll increases into effect.
However, increasing leverage remains a credit risk due to a widening
funding gap for transportation infrastructure. A delayed funding
authorization for the Highway Transportation Trust Fund could add to toll
road leverage, and exert more funding pressure for toll roads.
"State and local governments continue to tap into the excess cash
flows of toll roads to subsidize their own capital and operating needs,
or have shifted some of their transportation financing responsibilities
to existing toll roads," says Matesanz.
Toll roads with the highest leverage, usually those in operation
for less than 10 years, are the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (Triangle Expressway)(Baa3 stable), which opened in December 2012 and the Central Texas
Regional Mobility Authority (Baa2 stable). Others with high leverage
include the Foothill Eastern (Ba1 stable) and San Joaquin Hills (Ba2 Stable)
Transportation Corridor Agencies in Southern California.
A change in Moody's outlook for a sector does not connote rating
or outlook changes for individual issuers. The report is part of
a series of outlooks on a wide variety of sectors globally published by
Moody's. For other reports in the series, go to www.moodys.com/2016outlooks
The report is available to Moody's subscribers at https://www.moodys.com/researchdocumentcontentpage.aspx?docid=PBC_1009543.
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Chee Mee Hu
MD - Project Finance
Public Finance Group
Moody's: US toll road industry outlook revised to positive on traffic growth
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
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