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Economic Development Studies

To assist State and local officials in using the guidance, FHWA has sponsored research that serves as a template of sorts. These studies were on the I-86 corridor in NY and the SR 29 corridor in Wisconsin. The study reports were reviewed by FHWA and by state and local officials. FHWA considers the information in the reports to be basically accurate and to accurately report the opinion of people whose opinions are reported. However, FHWA does not necessarily share these opinions nor are the reports a specification, standard or policy. The I-86 corridor was designated a future Interstate in the TEA-21 of 1998. The SR-29 corridor was improved from a 2-lane highway to a divided 4-lane highway over about a decade through the initiative of the State of Wisconsin. As a follow up to the research, FHWA did on site reviews of the State Highway 29 corridor in Wisconsin and the western and central sections of I-86 in New York. As a prelude to a possible research project, FHWA has also done an on site review of the Hoosier Heartland Industrial Corridor in Indiana and Ohio. These reviews are the statement of the FHWA official who made them and are valid as of the date of the report.

To assist State and local officials in developing designated future mostly rural interstate highways, FHWA has completed research on existing mostly rural interstates (in one case a near-Interstate). The core of this research is a series of studies (conducted from 2003 to 2004) that are before/after type studies (the long construction period of interstate highways makes it essentially impossible to do a pure before/after study). As noted in this introduction to the research, the FHWA discourages inappropriate extrapolation from the results of these studies. The studies were:

FHWA has a summary of this research noting cases where the interstate apparently resulted in success in economic development and cases where it did not. In total, the studies support the proposition that areas with a modestly successful economic development program will have more success with an Interstate highway nearby. However, the studies do not support the proposition that a nearby Interstate automatically means economic development. Similarly, the studies do not support the proposition that a nearby Interstate automatically means sprawl and low-wage jobs. While this research clearly advances understanding of the subject of highway related economic development, it does not, by any means, extinguish the need for further study. The consultant, who conducted the research for the FHWA, has noted reasonably achievable steps for further research in the 9 studies listed above. Also as a prelude to a possible research project FHWA has done a site review of the economic development implications in northeast Tennessee and nearby Virginia resulting from the construction of I-26 south of I-81 and the renumbering of I-181 to I-26 between I-81 and Kingsport.  Finally, a narrative historical paper on I-85 provides a multi decade perspective on articles in Business Week and the Wall Street Journal that appeared in the 1990s about employment gains in that corridor.

Updated: 11/21/2013
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