Report finds transportation projects bring $508B into U.S. economy, states

U.S. transportation project construction supports nearly four million jobs and generates more than $508 billion in economic activity as it builds infrastructure needed by all other industries, says a new study by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

The report warns, however, that the backlog of needed projects threatens not just that infrastructure but the broader economy's strength because deterioration of roads, bridges, rail lines, airports, waterways, seaports or transit systems limits cargo movements and leaves more commuters stuck in traffic.

The study was prepared for ARTBA's Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) by a team led by ARTBA Vice President of Policy and Chief Economist Alison Premo Black. 

It was released Sept. 8, the same day Congress returned from a five-week recess to a busy legislative calendar that includes finishing a long-term surface transportation bill.  

Here is the complete report.

It includes a detailed breakdown for each state on the transportation construction workforce, condition of its road and bridge or other transportation infrastructure, driver mobility, freight shipments, roadway safety and economic impacts.

ARTBA also built a website with an interactive map that allows viewers to click on individual states to get those detailed pages.

The overall impact of the transportation construction industry on the U.S. economy, the study says, "are enormous."

For instance, it found that the sector's contribution to U.S. gross domestic product is greater than the entire GDP of 160 nations including Denmark, Israel, Ireland and New Zealand.

More than half the jobs the sector supports are indirect, but direct transportation construction employment of about 1.98 million is more than those employed by all the nation's colleges and universities, or clothing stores, commercial banks or hotels and motels.

For states, investments in transportation projects ripple through to create more jobs, plus higher levels of corporate and payroll tax receipts.

"But that is only a small part of the picture," the report says. "Without the infrastructure built, maintained and managed by the nation's transportation construction industry, virtually all of the major industry sectors that comprise the U.S. economy – and the American jobs they sustain – would not exist or could not efficiently and profitably function."

While Congress wrestles with how to pay for the Highway Trust Fund and related programs, and tries to decide how much to invest in road, transit and rail systems, the report provides examples of how investment has not nearly kept pace with demand.

"The number of highway lane miles grew nine percent between 1980 and 2013, while vehicle miles traveled nearly doubled, increasing 96 percent over the same time period," it says.

"Nearly 16 percent of roadway miles eligible for federal aid in the country need major reconstruction, repair or rehabilitation … [and] real highway spending per miles traveled in the U.S. has fallen by nearly 50 percent since the federal Highway Trust Fund was established in 1956.

Published 09-18-15