Practitioners and stakeholders often cite favorable economic impacts as an important justification for new transportation investments. But credible information about economic impacts is frequently missing from important transportation decision-making processes, such as state and MPO long-range transportation plans, transportation corridor studies, budget allocation, STIP/TIP development, and selection of individual projects. This is because policy makers and practitioners do not have access to reliable economic data. Without reliable data they cannot know how to make better investments that get the most public benefit from every dollar spent nor can they communicate vital connections between transportation investments and the economy. What is needed to improve this capability is the design and application of effective analytic methods and tools for estimating impacts, institutionalization of protocols for use of economic data during decision-making, and strategies for effective communication of useful information to stakeholders about economic impacts.
Under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), states, MPOs, transit agencies, and other agencies are collecting and reporting a wealth of data on the short-term jobs impacts of ARRA-funded transportation projects. This creates a unique opportunity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of jobs data in describing the economic impacts of transportation investments. This research will assess how jobs data might be used to support long-term improvements in the way that economic impacts of transportation investments are considered, including but not limited to: improvement of analytic methods and tools; incorporation of economic data in decision making; better communication of information to external audiences; and performance reporting. This research will also describe a framework for a future follow-on research project to develop new tools and techniques that improve how economic data and analysis are integrated into transportation planning and investment decisions.
The objectives of this research are to (1) examine what concludsion can be drawn from a review of ARRA data related to all modes of surface transportation about the overall impacts of new transportation investments on the creation of jobs and (3) examine ways in which this information can be applied to develop robust economic analysis tools that transportation agencies can use to forecast and assess economic impacts of planned or delivered transportation investments.
Key research tasks included:
1. Preparation of a Synopsis of Reports on ARRA Data including any pre-reporting estimates of the ARRA jobs creation associated with the various types of investments.
2. Analysis of Existing ARRA Data and summarization of pertinent conclusions that can be drawn from the jobs data regarding transportation investment performance and the economy, and considering a wide range of questions that might be addressed via the analysis of ARRA data and identification of questions that cannot be answered by the available data, but would benefit from additional research or follow-up.
3. Development of a conceptual framework for ways to improve the integration of economic analysis into the transportation decision-making process. The framework should describe ways in which jobs data can be combined with other data to develop robust economic analysis tools that can be applied in the transportation planning, program development, project delivery and project performance post-analysis processes to assess the broader impacts of transportation investment on the economy. The framework should clearly articulate and address any limitations associated with reliance on ARRA or jobs-related data as the sole measure of economic impact.
4. Identification of additional research needs related to the development of new tools and techniques.
The contractor's final report is available HERE.