ARC Releases Economic Analysis of Transportation Referendum Impacts

(ATLANTA – January 26, 2012)  Voters in the Atlanta region have the opportunity to pass a referendum on July 31, 2012 that would raise $8.5 billion through a one percent sales tax to fund transportation projects across the region.  Based on the list of priority transportation improvements developed by a Regional Transportation Roundtable of local officials, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and a team of economists have completed an initial analysis and forecast of the economic impacts of the 2012 Regional Transportation Referendum’s passage and build-out.

Economic benefits accrued through 2040 include the following, if the referendum passes*:

  • 4 to 1 return on investment – The $8.5 billion investment in 157 projects will result in a $34.8 billion* increase in gross regional product in the Atlanta region by 2040.
  • 200,000 additional jobs supported – The analysis indicates that the transportation investment will create or support an additional 200,000 job years**, including jobs that are maintained year-over-year.  Almost two-thirds of those jobs will be in mid-to-high paying job sectors.  The construction sector was hardest hit by the recession.  The referendum would lead to the creation and support of 34,000 jobs in this critical sector by 2040.
  • $18 billion in travel time savings – The average metro Atlanta commuter spends $924 each year sitting in traffic. Collectively, these projects would allow residents to save $9.2 billion* by 2040.
  • $18 billion increase in personal income – Due to the travel time savings and reduced fuel costs, incomes around the region will increase a collective $18 billion by 2040.

“After several months of in-depth computer modeling and analysis and with input from regional policy experts and economists, we believe that these numbers represent a conservative estimate of the positive impacts these projects would have on the region’s economy,” said Tad Leithead, ARC Chairman.  “The referendum project list is regional in nature, but has something for everyone in metro Atlanta.  By making these improvements in the next 10 years, rather than 20 or 30 years from now, these projects can be built cheaper, can improve transportation more quickly and have a positive economic impact sooner.”

Why More Funding?

Over the last several decades, metro Atlanta has been one of the fastest-growing regions in the country.  The region’s population has increased from three million in 1990 to five million in 2010, and ARC predicts that it will grow to more than eight million by 2040.

Meanwhile, the region has experienced a funding shortfall at the state and federal levels as fuel efficiency and less driving has sent gas tax revenues on a downward trend.  Since 1980, the average fuel efficiency of a passenger car sold in America has increased by almost 40 percent, going from 24.3 MPG to 33.8 MPG.***

Because of this, 70 percent of the region’s scheduled transportation funding for the next 30 years will be spent on simply maintaining the existing network, leaving little room for expansion.  As the region continues to grow, congestion will get worse, costing metro Atlantans more time and money spent in their cars.

“As the federally-designated transportation planning agency for the Atlanta region, our job is to accurately calculate the economic benefits of targeted transportation improvements,” said Leithead.  “The voters will ultimately make the decision regarding the referendum that they believe is best for the region.”

*These dollar amounts are stated in 2011 dollars.

**The term “job years” is a comprehensive measurement of the real supported employment created by the Transportation Referendum.  Modeling results include reoccurring jobs – those jobs that last more than one year. Using job years prevents double counting and accurately reflects the true economic value of the employment represented by the job. For further explanation of job years, contact Jim Jaquish at 404-463-3194.

*** Research and Innovative Technology Administration

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