NVAR Hosts a Forum on the Economic Impacts of Transportation Investments in the Region

panelists at transportation forum
(L - R) Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Chair Martin Nohe, Shirley Contracting Company President Greg Smith, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance Executive Director Jason Stanford and Comstock Companies Vice President of Communications Maggie Parker.

NORTHERN VIRGINIANS ARE ALL TOO FAMILIAR with bumper-to-bumper traffic on their morning and evening commutes, passing the time by tuning in to their favorite radio programs or listening to podcasts.

During a recent forum held at the headquarters of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors®, experts in real estate, transportation, business and heavy construction discussed the need for investment in highway and transit improvements. Presenters also spoke about intelligent transportation systems that will move the most people through the region, reduce congestion and travel time delays, increase network reliability, and promote regional economic development and growth.

On Feb. 6, the “Forum on the Economic Impacts of Transportation Investments,” co-presented by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, convened at NVAR’s offices in Fairfax, Va. The standing-room-only forum examined the economic benefits of investing in transportation projects throughout Northern Virginia – specifically the economic benefits of the Authority’s $3 billion in regional funding of multimodal transportation projects – and how transportation factors into business decisions. Also on the agenda was the recent Authority study on the economic benefits of the organization’s multi-billion-dollar funding of transportation projects aimed at tackling congestion across the region.

The event kicked off with Authority Chair and Prince William County Coles District Supervisor, Martin Nohe, presenting the economic impact of the Authority study’s findings and key takeaways. The Authority is advancing 122 regional multimodal projects across seven modes with its primary focus to alleviate congestion throughout Northern Virginia.

The Authority commissioned an independent firm, Chmura Economics & Analytics, to conduct the study using IMPLAN Pro, one of the most widely used economic assessment modeling systems. Key economic analysis takeaways presented by Nohe included: 1) 26,000 jobs will be created through Authority project funding adding to the tax base and ensuring regional growth and vitality (90 percent of those jobs staying in Northern Virginia); 2) Authority projects are expected to save Virginians 209 million hours of travel time, representing $3.1 billion in monetary savings; and 3) NVTA’s funding of $1.9 billion in regional transportation projects plus $3.8 billion in additional investments totals $5.7 billion in critical transportation projects to Northern Virginia.

“If you make people’s commutes better, they will be more likely to want to work here,” Nohe said. “NVTA projects are reducing travel time through 2030 by 209 million hours of time people will not spend in their cars. Two hundred and nine million hours that people will be with their families out doing things they enjoy, or spending a little more time at work, perhaps, that produces a cost savings of $3.1 billion.”

Following Nohe’s presentation, Monica Backmon, executive director of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, moderated a panel discussion with Chair Nohe, Comstock Companies Vice President of Communications Maggie Parker, Shirley Contracting Company LLC President Greg Smith, and Alliance Executive Director Jason Stanford.

The panelists spoke about the importance of transportation investments and having a seamless transportation network, as well as how best to get people moving in the region through a multimodal, regional approach.

“There is always going to be a transportation need but not enough funding to meet the needs,” Stanford said. “It’s all about prioritizing. How do we move people in the most cost-effective way?”

Parker said every prospective Comstock Companies property tenant considering relocating to the region asks, “How do our people move? How can I attract employees? ... I want them to be able to bike, to ride a bus, to walk, to take the train, to drive a car.

“Things have got to flow,” Parker continued. “We can’t attract anyone without significant transportation investments. To have this Authority that is planning on a regional basis is critical because we can’t be parochial in our view of transportation only within our small jurisdictional boundaries.”

Comstock Companies is a real estate development company currently building two large communities, both along the Metro’s Silver Line.

The presenters emphasized the importance of offering multiple mobility choices in the D.C. Metro region and providing residents freedom of choice that works best for their lifestyles, where they want to live, and where they want to work.

Backmon echoed the panelists’ sentiments. “For this region, you cannot prescribe one mode for everyone. It just doesn’t work that way,” she said.

Smith emphasized the importance of transportation as a means of mobility and as an economic driver.

“Businesses can now plan for the long-term,” Smith said. “When contractors and businesses know there is a little bit of certainty out there, that there is going to be funding, that things are going to get going, it absolutely creates jobs. It has a direct impact…because it definitely drives our economy and drives goods and services.”

Nohe clarified that roadway maintenance and operations cannot be funded by the Authority; however, it can fund projects such as highway construction, roadway expansion and new tracks and trains.

“The Authority has a huge impact on our transportation system, even more so than the state [Virginia],” Stanford said. “The Authority plays a critical role for us.”

The full one-hour event can be viewed on the Authority’s Facebook page, @TheNVTA.

Erica Hawksworth is the communications & public affairs manager for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

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