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Virginia and National Experts: Transportation Infrastructure Vital to Economic Growth and Quality of Life

RICHMOND, VA – Building America’s Future (BAF) and the Greater Richmond Chamber held a policy forum at the Richmond Marriott today focused on the importance of strategic and long-term infrastructure investment as an effective way to maintain the Richmond region’s economic competitiveness and quality of life. 

“From crumbling bridges to traffic congestion, infrastructure impacts our safety and quality of life on a daily basis,” said former Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA) and co-chair of BAF. “Nationally, we invest only 1.7 percent of GDP in transportation; China is investing nine percent. If America stops investing in infrastructure, we are destined to become a second-rate power. We must invest and support infrastructure improvements to increase our nation’s economic competitiveness and improve the quality of our lives.”

Experts and officials also discussed Virginia’s transportation challenges and approaches for infrastructure investment.

“For our region to move forward, it begins with a greater understanding of local infrastructure challenges,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton. “By 2035, Virginia's population is expected to grow by almost 3 million people, with most of that growth concentrated in Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Fredericksburg. The need to move people and goods effectively in these regions is of concern to citizens and businesses alike and critical to the continued economic growth of Virginia.”

In addition, based on current conditions and forecasts, Virginia will completely run out of money for new transportation construction by 2017.

“The failure to invest in transportation has already caused Virginia to lose its top business ranking; without new investment, the problem will get much worse,” said John Easter, Senior Vice President of Government and Community Affairs for the Greater Richmond Chamber. “The economic vitality of our region requires a long-term strategic plan for infrastructure investment. Washington must do more to provide innovative incentives and encourage more private sector partnerships.”

A news conference at the Midlothian Turnpike Improvement Project following the policy forum responded to the latest construction industry job figures. According to the Associated General Contractors, construction employment in Virginia declined during both the last year and the last month:

  • Virginia lost 2,600 construction jobs for both the year and the month, a 1.5 percent decrease compared to the prior month, and between August 2011 and August 2012. 
  • The Commonwealth ranks 41st out of 50 states and the District of Columbia when it comes to changes in construction employment levels during the past month and 29th compared to last August. 
  • Currently, 175,000 construction workers are employed in Virginia compared to 177,600 in July and 178,200 in August 2011. 
  • Meanwhile, construction employment in the Richmond area was stagnant between August 2011 and August 2012. Total local construction employment in the metro area now stands 32,600.

"Today's figures would have been much worse had it not been for the fact that state leaders have made a concerted, bipartisan effort to invest in highway and transit infrastructure," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. "Yet thousands more construction workers could be employed today in Virginia and across the country if we had a long-term federal program in place for investing in our aging highway and transit systems."

“The longer Washington waits to act, the longer our economy and quality of life suffers,” said Governor Rendell. “Smart infrastructure investment is one of the most effective ways to create good-paying jobs in key industries like construction and manufacturing. The time to act is now.”

NOTE: All related event materials are housed at: http://www.bafuture.org/richmond. 

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MEDIA CONTACT: Laura Braden, 615-891-8433, laura AT bradenstrategies.com