$1 billion transporation investment would create 18,000 jobs in Virginia

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Print this page Jessica Sabbath

An annual $1 billion increase in state transportation construction would create more than 18,000 jobs and increase state economic output by $2.45 billion in Virginia, according to a study commissioned by the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.

“As we continue this debate about whether to adequately fund Virginia’s infrastructure, we have another piece we need to look at,” Jeff Southard, executive vice president of the alliance, told more than 400 people attending the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Virginia Economic Summit in Williamsburg on Thursday. “We know that long-lived assets create jobs and sustain tax revenues.”

The study, conducted by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation, found the annual investment would add $162 million in new state revenues each year.

The study predicts that about 55 percent of the jobs created would be in non-construction industries. For example, the $1 billion investment would create almost 2,000 new retail trade jobs, 1,000 manufacturing jobs and 1,000 jobs in accommodation and food services.

Southard spoke during a session on one of Virginia’s largest obstacles in its business profile: transportation needs.

Russell Held, deputy executive director for development for the Virginia Port Authority, said that although the Virginia port is well poised to grow when the Panama Canal expansion is completed, congestion its primary obstacle in future growth.

“We really do have an Achilles’ heel and that is traffic congestion,” Held said. “Our competition is using this against us, so we need your help in pushing for funding and construction solutions. We want to remain competitive and keep commerce flowing.”

Held said that the port was doing its part to try and reduce congestion. With the near completion of its rail reconfiguration at Norfolk International Terminals and its lease of the APM Terminal in Portsmouth,  the port will be able to handle almost 1 million rail lifts a year.

Currently, 30 percent of port’s cargo is transported via rail, but the port is seeking to increase that to 60 percent. The port is also seeking to increase cargo on barges from 4 percent to 10 percent.

Ken Daley, president of international development at Transurban, told attendees that public-private partnerships in transportation can offer states a significant return on investment.

Transurban is a private partner on the HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes currently under construction on the Capital Beltway. Virginia agreed to fund $409 million for bridge replacements in the HOT lanes project. In return, Transurban will spend $2 billion on the project, which is expected to create 12,000 construction jobs pump $2.7 billion into the Virginia economy.

“The support for [public-private partnerships] is dependant on having a viable and a public side partner that’s prepared to invest in them,” Daley said. “None of the projects have been able to be made feasible without the participation of the public sector.”

Daley also warned that public-private transportation projects are not the only solution to funding transportation.

“They are not the answer to everything,” Daley said. “In fact, [public-private partnerships] are only a small part of the overall transportation program.”

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