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ARC-Commissioned Study Underscores Economic Benefits of the Appalachian Development Highway System

June 2008


WASHINGTON, D.C., June 5, 2008—Completion of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) would yield significant economic benefits for both the Appalachian economy and the broader national economy, according to a new study commissioned by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

By facilitating national freight flows, reducing travel times, improving safety, and enhancing access to markets, completion of the ADHS would create new jobs and greater value-added activity, returning $3 in economic benefits to the nation for every $1 spent to finish it.

The first highway system authorized by Congress for the purpose of stimulating economic development, the ADHS is a 3,090-mile highway system composed of 31 corridors located in the 13 Appalachian states. The system is approximately 85 percent finished and when completed will fit into an integrated network connecting to national markets and trade flows.

The study—conducted jointly by Cambridge Systematics, Economic Development Research Group, and HDR Decision Economics—assesses how the corridor improvements will enhance the connectivity of Appalachia's people and businesses to other highway facilities, multimodal transportation, and markets.

Key findings from the study note that:

  • Completion of the ADHS would generate 80,500 jobs by 2035, and $3.2 billion annually in increased wages.
  • Greater market accessibility would result in $2.1 billion annually in value-added activity in Appalachia.
  • More than 65 percent of the benefits to freight movement would accrue to areas outside of Appalachia, suggesting the importance to the national economy of completing the ADHS.
  • Savings in travel time, fuel and non-fuel operating costs, and increased safety would reach $1.6 billion annually by 2020.

ARC Federal Co-Chair Anne B. Pope said that "just like the U.S. interstate highway system, the ADHS is designed to be a complete system. And for it to be a true system, all of its corridors have to be connected, either to other corridors or to the interstate. So to realize its full potential, the ADHS must be completed. Of course, a number of the remaining miles have to be built in some of the most difficult terrain there is in Appalachia. But we can't stop now, after all the investments we have already made."

Senator Robert C. Byrd, one the strongest advocates of the ADHS in Congress, said, "From its very inception, I have long supported the Appalachian Development Highway System because I have seen first-hand the tremendous benefits that are highlighted in this important study. Unfortunately, there are still children in Appalachia who lack decent transportation routes to school; and there are still pregnant mothers, elderly citizens, and others who lack timely road access to area hospitals. I look forward to the completion of each mile of these roads because, as this study confirms, the ADHS provides safer, more modern routes that spur economic growth and improve the lives of millions of Americans."

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, ARC's 2008 states' co-chair, noted the role of the Appalachian Development Highway System in enhancing the Region's economic competitiveness. "Whether you're in the Appalachian Region or the Midwest, one of the most important factors in spurring new economic development growth is the availability of a highway system that can efficiently meet the transportation needs of the current market. I'm confident that completion of this safer, more modernized transportation network will enhance our job creation efforts on a state and regional basis while also improving the quality of life for our citizens."

Congressman Nick Rahall, co-chair of the Congressional Appalachian Caucus, stated that "the Appalachian Development Highway System has played a key role in boosting the economy of my home state of West Virginia, linking formerly isolated communities to markets throughout the nation and beyond and helping to create new jobs and brighter economic opportunities. This report provides strong evidence to support those of us who are working to provide the necessary funding to complete this system and achieve the full measure of potential it has so long promised."

A total of 434 miles in the ADHS remain to be put under construction. The new study, Economic Impact Study of Completing the Appalachian Development Highway System, is available on the ARC Web site.