By. Neil Williamson, President
Statistics can be very powerful. The discussion about transportation needs has been at fever pitch for almost a decade but when one looks closely at the statistics, actual asphalt production in the Commonwealth is at 1985 levels.
Steep declines in quarry and asphalt production and employment illustrate the magnitude of the lost highway contracting work in recent years. According to DMME data for the last three years, aggregate production in Northern and Central Virginia has fallen about 20 million tons or 40% and man-hours worked have fallen by more than 1.6 million hours, greater than 50%. Production, jobs and man-hours worked in 2009 were at or below 1986 levels. VAA data reveals state asphalt production has declined by about 7 million tons or 50% over the last four years to below 1986 levels. About 2000 direct asphalt industry jobs have been lost over the same period, a nearly 50% reduction, with 2009 employment falling to lowest level in 32 years.
Economic Stimulus Spent Elsewhere
Of the $695 million of federal stimulus funds received, Virginia dedicated just 16% to transportation projects.
Personal Economic Impact
In 2004, The Road Information Project (TRIP) wrote in their paper “Paying the Price for Inadequate Roads in Virginia”:
TRIP estimates that Virginia’s roadways that lack desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions cost the state’s drivers approximately $4.4 billion annually in the form of traffic accidents, additional vehicle operating costs and congestion-related delays. TRIP estimates that the annual cost of inadequate roadways is
- $2,131 per average driver in the Washington metro area
- $1,032 in the Richmond area
- $874 in the Roanoke area
- $1,290 in the Hampton Roads area
- $684 per average urban driver living elsewhere in the state.
Statewide Economic Impact
According to The Old Dominion Highway Contractors Association:
More than $4.6 billion has been cut from Virginia’s six-year transportation program since Spring 2008. Using the industry accepted standard of 42,000 jobs created for each billion dollars spent, this loss of funds cost Virginia’s economy more than 200,000 jobs.
The Free Enterprise Forum believes it does not take a degree in economics to conclude that a continued failure to fund the state’s transportation infrastructure needs will negatively impact economic development. The corollary is also true, significant targeted investment in transportation infrastructure will most certainly result in increase economic activity for the entire state.
If we agree that money spent on transportation infrastructure (including heavy rail for freight), how do we, as a commonwealth, fund the transportation infrastructure we need to get on the road to economic vitality?
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org