Infrastructure will boost economy

Published 6:02 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A recent report out of Frankfort confirmed what we have long said: Investing in our communities’ infrastructure pays huge dividends when it comes to economic development.

The analysis, conducted by Lexington-based Commonwealth Economics, contends that Kentucky’s economy would gain an additional $3.33 for every dollar invested in transportation.

The report also shows the state is well behind where it needs to be in committed dollars in order to strengthen our system of roads and highways.

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Infrastructure funding and gaps for all modes of transportation at a time when funding for state highway projects this fiscal year is down 67 percent from fiscal year 2012 and is $227 million less than the average over the past decade.

“These needs are real and necessary to accommodate the system’s workforce, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and other users who are the engines of our economy,” Juva Barber, executive director of Kentuckians for Better Transportation and chairwoman of the Kentucky Infrastructure Coalition, which funded the report, said in a prepared release.

“Kentucky must invest more in infrastructure to attract and expand a 21st-century economy and jobs. In addition, this study shows the powerful, quantifiable impact of infrastructure investment. Kentucky must create funding solutions that are dynamic, sustainable and meet the evolving needs of a changing economy. We must responsibly maintain the infrastructure we have today for all modes of transportation and build what we need for our future.”

Some of the key findings include:

Kentucky needs an additional minimum of $554 million in annual transportation investment just to maintain the average level of construction funding from the past decade and provide the necessary level of maintenance on existing highways and bridges.

That $554 million increase in transportation infrastructure spending would support employment for 6,239 people and generate $296 million in total wages.

— When combining the construction impacts with the ongoing operational benefits, the benefit-cost ratio jumps to 5.01 to 1. This means Kentucky would realize a benefit of more than $2.7 billion from each additional $554 million investment in transportation infrastructure.

As Gov. Matt Bevin and the legislature continue to wrangle over a new budget filled with cuts to many state initiatives, including what right now includes several roadway projects here in Clark County, we hope all parties involved look at the big picture when it comes to investing in highways and infrastructure.

Kentucky certainly has to find a way to live within its means but also not lose sight of the fact that investing in the future is the best way to make it a bright one.