This is a guest post written by Shauna Spencer. Originally from Hampton Roads, Shauna is a student of psychology and international studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. She works on Housing Policy and Research Analysis at Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME).
Tired of the traffic on interstate 64? Fed up with the economy? Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s most recent proposal addresses both problems. He has come up with a plan involving a series of debt-funded transportation mega-projects to invigorate the economy. According to recent research conducted by George Mason University, if the plan were to go forward:
“Virginia’s economy would expand by $4.1 billion and support 56,798 additional jobs… and [the projects] would generate an additional $2.9 billion in new taxable earnings.”
The research also suggests that the costs would be well exceeded by the benefits triggered by such a stimulus.
The project would involve significant infrastructure improvements to the following:
- Route 495 HOT Lanes
- Norfolk/Portsmouth Downtown/Midtown Tunnel
- I-64 Richmond to Hampton Roads
- Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel
- I-66 HOT Lanes
- Route 17 – Dominion Boulevard
- Route 58
- Route 73
- I-95/395 HOT Lanes
- Coalfields Expressway
- Hampton Roads Third Crossing
- Route 460 Corridor Improvements
- Southeast Parkway & Greenbelt
- Route 895 – Airport Connector
- Route 28
A viable and accessible transportation system is key to the economic development of any area—the more connected people are to a wide range of housing options, jobs, good schools, quality healthcare, and opportunity in general, the more able they are to become “fit” economically. And of course, if the members of a community experience an increase in prosperity, then the community as a whole experiences the benefits of a healthy economy.
Governor McDonnell’s plan has received considerable bi-partisan support—the Virginia Senate voted in favor of the bill 34-6. The governor hopes that this project will help to improve the transportation systems that already exist and “open additional parts of the Commonwealth to economic development.”
This idea of injecting enormous amounts of government funds into the economy in order to stimulate growth is the same strategy pursued by President Obama via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which was enacted in February 2009 and served to successfully stimulate the national economy. The ARRA funds allocated to Virginia were used to improve the highway infrastructure, increase public transportation, promote resource conservation, and improve drinking water systems, among other improvement-minded projects. Now, two years later, the positive effects of the ARRA funds have proven to be far-reaching—studies show that approximately 5.3 million Virginians have benefited from the consequences of the national stimulus package.
Given the success of ARRA, the future of the Virginia Transportation Bill appears optimistic. Way to go, Governor McDonnell!