The major issue for local stakeholders located along the US 80 corridor for the purpose of the Economic Development Highways Initiative is improvement to the corridor to help generate: (1) local industrial theme parks or tourist related attractions at or near the major urban populations along the corridor at Demopolis, Selma, Montgomery and Tuskegee and; (2) improvements to quality of life measures in the western portion of the corridor that is not parallel to I-85 but traverses primarily rural undeveloped land from the vicinity of Shorter, AL to Phenix City, AL at the Georgia border. Local stakeholders want US 80 improved to a four-lane highway across Alabama from Georgia to Mississippi with a bypass at Tuskegee and Uniontown.
The industrial theme parks (or tourism attractions such as Selma) are expected to orient to the unique local resources of each of the urban areas and upgrading of the corridor will allow these areas to compete with similarly situated sites that have Interstate Highway access. The quality of life focuses on the attractiveness of US 80 improvements to stimulate local population access to new services and employment opportunities, which for the most part now lie along I-85 outside of Russell and Bullock counties.
The major issue for local stakeholders located along the US 43 corridor for the purpose of the Economic Development Highways Initiative is improvement to the corridor to help generate: (1) local economic development along the segment that is parallel to I-20/I-59, extending from Greene County approximately 40 miles northeast to Tuscaloosa. And; (2) local economic development along the corridor that extends from Greene County approximately 155 miles south to Mobile, AL to include intermodal access to the Port of Mobile.
The issue for the northern part of US 43 (Greene County to Tuscaloosa) is the provision of local access roads to stimulate retail and strip development and the impact of the immediate vicinity of US to parallel I-20/I-59 on attracting industry west of Tuscaloosa located on US 43 through upgrading existing or developing new interchanges. The Mercedes assembly plant is located at Vance, AL approximately 16 miles east of Tuscaloosa making sites along US 43 west of Tuscaloosa potentially attractive to related spill over development.
The issue for the southern part of US 43 is determining how corridor enhancement to Interstate Highway performance standards would stimulate local economic development that is related to the Port of Mobile (intermodal) and new markets that the Port is developing for containerized cargoes and cruise vessels. The concept of a 'port parkway' is being considered for intermodal cruise vessel passengers as well as new container cargoes and markets that the port anticipates developing.
The local economic base is highly dependent on agriculture; seasonal unemployment can exceed 25 percent. However, the County also is heavily affected by cross-border traffic between Calexico, CA (population about 20,000) and Mexicali, Mexico (population about half a million). This averaged more than 40,000 vehicles per day cumulative at two locations in 2000. Mexicali, capital of the State of Baja is home to almost 200 'Maquiladora' industrial plants (as of December 2000), each generating dozens of cross-border trips per day. Much of the cross-border traffic is bound for points beyond Imperial County, and while several highway improvements are planned or underway, congestion is growing in several locations with the result that truck traffic is diverting onto narrow county roads and some city streets.
The County's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for 1999 - 2000 lists several main strategies, including (among others): development of public works infrastructure for commercial and industrial areas, improvement of transportation corridors, development of agriculture related industries (e.g., a new meat processing plant), and development of tourism. Local and State officials had not, as of September 2001, identified specific highway improvement projects for study. However, they have named four specific transportation objectives: (1) Ensure that freight movement needs of major companies are met; (2) Determine whether enhancements in the standards for county roads and city streets are needed to support goods movement, and (if so) what are impacts with respect to county and city funding requirements; and, (3) maintain adequate movement of agricultural products and vehicles.
Local officials in a number of small communities in central and eastern Fresno County, CA are interested in widening and otherwise improving an existing east-west rural arterial - Manning Avenue - from its interchange with SR-99 (a major north-south freeway serving California's Central Valley) east to the City of Orange Cove. Orange Cove is a rural farm community of 7,000 people located approximately 30 miles east-southeast of the City of Fresno and eight miles south of SR-180, a main route to Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park. Other study participants include the communities of Reedley, Parlier, Selma, and Fowler, as well as Fresno County. A portion of Manning Avenue west of Orange Cove (from Reedley to Alta Avenue) is scheduled for widening to four lanes. No other highway improvements in the corridor are included in the region's current long-range transportation plan.
Corridor residents are heavily dependent on agriculture for jobs and personal income, and seasonal unemployment can run as higher as 35 percent. The region has been hard hit in recent years by freezes that seriously damage the citrus crop, and communities are exploring opportunities to foster economic development and stable employment growth for their residents. The goal of current and proposed economic development strategies is to diversify the predominantly agricultural economy of the Corridor to include significant new employment in retail, industrial and high-wage food processing activities. The main aspects of these strategies are: Creation of a new industrial park, creation of a new retail complex, and attraction of food processing industries. Successful implementation of these strategies will depend in part on further improvements to Manning Avenue to provide improved access (as measured travel time, reliability, cost, and quality benefits) to several available sites served by that facility.
The major issue for local stakeholders in Morehouse Parish LA for the purpose of the Economic Development Highways Initiative is improvement to US 425 from Bastrop to the Arkansas state line. The desired improvements involve widening the highway to four lanes in rural sections and five lanes in urban sections, and providing a western by-pass. The desired corridor would continue through Arkansas to Pine Bluff and Little Rock. The local stakeholders would like to have some capacity to evaluate the economic/fiscal impacts from the proposed highway improvement. There is general belief that highway-widening projects provide economic development opportunities in the following ways.
Morehouse Parish views the highway widening into Arkansas as joining the Parish to a larger economic region, where the Parish can share in regional economic growth.
The major issue for local stakeholders in Lincoln Parish LA, for the purpose of the Economic Development Highways Initiative, is the construction of frontage (service) roads adjacent to I-20 in the Ruston/Grambling area. The expansion to frontage roads is intended as an economic development tool to accommodate retail trade. The Ruston/Grambling area is regarded as underserved by retailing. Grambling has a small retailing presence, which appears well below the effective buying power of a substantial student population and a resident population closely allied with a major university. In Ruston, economic growth has recently been served by adaptive reuse. Instead of build-out to serve retail and service needs, conversion of historic buildings have provided for the space requirements. This, however, has had the undesirable effect of erosion of the historic district. There is some thought that increased frontage roads could provide a benefit regarding both the Grambling and the Ruston situations.
The major issue for the local stakeholders at the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and Roosevelt County, Montana, for the purpose of the Economic Development Highways Initiative, is improvements to the US Route 2 corridor that would support, strengthen and diversify the local economy. Many local stakeholders have expressed the view that investing in upgrades to roads that feed into US 2 would provide the basic infrastructure necessary to support new initiatives in natural gas production, wind power, manufacturing and tourism, in addition to supporting the region's agricultural base. Specifically, in the northwestern area of the reservation, a wind power project (located approximately 20 miles north of US 2), requires new construction that would connect the project to Highway 24 and Route 438, which are north-south roads that connect to US 2. The inaccessibility to US 2 of oil fields and a planned dairy farm in the Lustre area, located approximately 20 miles north of US 2, is also of concern. In the northeastern area of the reservation, access roads are also needed to connect Highway 16 to the location of a planned project to produce natural gas. Highway 16 connects directly to US 2.
Other local stakeholders have expressed the view that enhancing and/or widening US 2 would support local economic development, as well as improve enhance safety. Several initiatives in the Poplar area would add traffic to US 2, including a $200 million irrigation and municipal drinking water project, a golf course, motel/convention center and the expansion plans for an existing manufacturing plant. Together with a dinosaur museum planned at Fort Peck Lake, west of the Reservation, the aggregate impact of these projects might support upgrading Route 2 to a 'Super 2' or widening it to 4 lanes. Upcoming stakeholder meetings and subsequent analyses will help to identify the appropriate transportation intervention.
The major issue for local stakeholders in Edgecombe County, NC, for the purpose of the Economic Development Highways Initiative, is the construction of improvements to US 64 that would facilitate development of the 'long site' which is a 154 acres parcel adjacent to the Kingsboro Road interchange about six miles east of Rocky Mount, NC. The county's preferred land use for the site would be for a biotechnology processing facility. This would offer a great deal of synergy with R&D activities that are located in Research Triangle Park, located approximately 1 ½ hours to the west of the proposed site. This target industry offers the county a growth industry with high paying manufacturing jobs. This development is, at this time, considered plausible based on significant interest and repeat investigative visits by a major company.
The major issue for local stakeholders in the I-99 Corridor in Pennsylvania for the purpose of the Economic Development Highways Initiative is completion of all portions of the corridor and improvement to feeder roads to I-99. The limits of the study is the I-99 Corridor from the Pennsylvania Turnpike north to the Pennsylvania/New York border. The study area also includes the following state routes and counties that feed into the I-99 Corridor.
I-99 runs through Bedford, Blair, Centre, Clinton, Lycoming, and Tioga counties. The counties of Somerset, Fulton, Cambria, Mifflin, Union, Clearfield, and Huntington are contiguous to the 'I-99 counties' and have US and/or state routes that provide access to I-99.
Portions of the I-99 corridor are scheduled for completion in 2006. The main interest of local stakeholders is to determine what supporting roadway improvements are needed for serving locations of potential industrial and commercial development in the counties in the I-99 corridor and those adjacent counties that have access to I-99. The I-99 Corridor improvements are thought to further enhance regional economic development in the Keystone Opportunity Zones (KOZ), which provide for state supported incentives for business investment and job creation.
Major issues related to the economic development highways initiative study are corridor improvements to: 1) support the development of the tourism industry within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, 2) improve east-west movement within the reservation, and 3) enhance the flow of goods and services within the reservation to increase economic 'multiplier effects.' Local stakeholders have emphasized the importance of improving the east-west corridor whose spine is BIA Route 2. If fully paved and functional, this corridor will provide links to the roads to Wounded Knee (to the south), the Cedar Pass entrance to Badlands National Park (to the northeast), and the tourism attractions of the Black Hills and to the Heartland Expressway (to the west). In combination with the planned improvements to BIA 41, improvements to the BIA Route 2 corridor will also facilitate connections south toward the town of Pine Ridge and the reservation's casino, and north to Rapid City and would therefore support a strong tourism sector. The proximity of the reservation to Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, and other destinations, which together attract millions of visitors per year, provide opportunities both to entice tourists from the north and the west into the reservation and to attract more tourists to the entire region.
Improvements could include paving the full length of BIA 2, providing signage and turnouts throughout the corridor that would support tourism, and improving the connection to Wounded Knee via BIA Route 27 including widening the road and adding shoulders.
The major issue for local stakeholders in Webb, Dimmit, and Zavala Counties Texas for the purpose of the Economic Development Highways Initiative is to identify how specific highway improvements (currently planned future improvements) may set the stage for economic development. U.S. Highway 83 through most of the study area has 'Super Two' characteristics, which include wide shoulders, turning lanes, and speed. Transportation improvements for the short term could consist of additional passing lanes, four lanes through the larger towns, curbing and guttering, straightening some of the sharp turns, etc. where needed. Economic growth and development characteristics for these counties vary significantly. Webb County has experienced economic growth due to location. In 2000, the Laredo port of entry accounted for roughly 41.2% of the total value in trade with Mexico, making it one of the busiest ports of entry for overland merchandise trade in the hemisphere. This has created a strong demand for trucking, warehousing, staging areas, and support service industries in the area. Dimmit and Zavala counties to the north on U.S. Highway 83, are at the other end of the development spectrum. They have higher rates of unemployment and declining population and industry. Dimmit and Zavala counties are very sparsely populated with 7.7 and 8.9 persons per square mile in 2000 respectively. Their key industries rely on their abundance of natural resources such as oil and agricultural enterprises. Because of this varying economic situation in the study area (between Webb County - Laredo - and Dimmit and Zavala), stakeholders view transportation investment (from the economic development standpoint) differently. In Webb County, transportation improvements are viewed to improve economic development by accommodating more trade related economic stimulation. In Dimmit and Zavala counties, stakeholders view transportation improvements from the perspective of increased market access, improved competitiveness for attracting businesses and tourists, and improved quality of life.
The three highway corridors described below provide context for discussion of the issues.
The TOLSIA Highway is the northern half of a proposed project to replace existing West Virginia US Route 52 between Huntington and Bluefield. The proposed TOLSIA Highway will be a four-lane, divided, partial-access highway, costing $866.6 million, and extending 58 miles from Huntington on the Ohio River south-southeast to Williamson, WV. The King Coal Highway is the southern half of the project to replace existing Route 52. It would also be a four-lane, divided, partial-access highway, extend from Williamson, WV south-southeast about 90 miles to Bluefield, WV, and cost about $1.5 billion. Both of these highway corridors are part of West Virginia's I-73/74 NHS Corridor, as identified by Section 1105 c of ISTEA, as amended.
Appalachian Development Highway Corridor G extends from Huddy, KY east-northeast to Charleston, WV for a distance of about 81 miles. The highway was completed in West Virginia in 1997, although most of the highway within West Virginia between Williamson and Charleston has been open for about six-seven years. Corridor G is a four-lane divided, partial-access control highway, which means that is has at-grade intersections.
The Coalfields Expressway would extend from Grundy, VA about 60 miles east-northeast to Beckley, WV where it would connect to the West Virginia Turnpike, I-64/77. The proposed highway would be a four-lane, partial-access control, divided highway, and cost $780 million in West Virginia, excluding right of way acquisition.
Members of the stakeholder group stated that there is a severe shortage of flat developable, commercial/industrial sites with the necessary infrastructure in the study area. They stressed that this shortage, which is due to the rugged topography of the study area, will have to be eliminated if the economic development benefits of the new highways are to be maximized. Even if a sufficient number of flat sites can be found, or created during mine reclamation activities, considerable investment would still be required to supply the necessary utility service to the sites. An industrial park has already been proposed near the intersection of the King Coal Highway and Corridor G east of Williamson near West Virginia Route 65. Several other potential locations for commercial/industrial parks include the intersection of the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway in McDowell County, and the terminus of the King Coal Highway at US Route 460 in Mercer County. The West Virginia Development Office is currently preparing an inventory of potentially developable industrial sites in the study area counties.
A major objective of tourism development is to diversify the economies of the study area counties. The reduction in travel times and costs from large metropolitan areas in the adjacent Midwest and Middle Atlantic states into the study area will greatly expand the size of the potential visitor market, while the increase in through-traffic increases the number of potential tourists passing through the area. The Corridor G Tourism Development Steering Committee has developed a Tourism Development Strategy. The Plan notes the need to better publicize West Virginia's natural and recreational resources to residents of the adjacent states; provide the necessary roadside infrastructure; and design development initiatives to take advantage of such new recreational facilities as the Hatfield-McCoy Recreational Trail System and the National Coal Heritage Area. The State of West Virginia has a number of recreational facilities already present in the study area counties, including the Pipestem Resort in Mercer County and R.D. Bailey Lake in Wyoming County that could potentially attract visitors. The ARC (March 2001) noted that a highway project creates the opportunity to attract traffic off the new highway to local tourist sites, and also makes it easier for people to take day or weekend trips into an area that took too long prior to the new highway.