08/22/14 — Looking at I-795, U.S. 70 impact

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Looking at I-795, U.S. 70 impact

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 22, 2014 1:46 PM

Completing Interstate 795 between Goldsboro and I-40 in Sampson County would save travelers and businesses millions of dollars and speed development in the region, experts said Thursday.

Finishing the highway upgrade would result in $74 million in business cost savings for existing users, which would then give rise to about a $520 million bump in the gross regional product and another $568 million in travel savings for residents and visitors.

And while the four-county region that would be served by a completed I-795 is already forecast for growth, the highway will help it grow faster and be more competitive as the result of improved connectivity, accessibility and transportation efficiencies.

Those were among the findings of an Economic Impact Assessment Study presented during Thursday's meeting of the Wayne County Transportation Committee.

The competitiveness would not only support local businesses, but would attract new and emerging businesses as well, said Dr. Paula Dowell of Cambridge Systematics, which compiled the study.

Because of the greater access to the state ports and to the port at Norfolk, Va., the highway's impact would not be limited to the highway corridor area, she said.

The benefit is even greater when I-795 and U.S. 70 are considered together, she said.

The study projects that between 2020 and 2040 the highway would mean $74 million in business transportation cost savings along the corridor.

"This translates into as your businesses save that $74 million that frees up resources to be spent in other ways and actually leads to a $520 million increase in your gross regional product," Ms. Dowell said. "If you sum all of those jobs up, like if the job was created in year 2020 and it is sustained for every year until 2040, then that same job is the equivalent of 20 job years. A job is good, but if it can last, it is even better."

"These are long-term economic gains," she added. "These 220 average annual jobs would equate to about 4,450 in terms of job years over the life of the study period. This nets about $490 million in terms of your net income."

Ms. Dowell said there also would be negative consequences if the highway is not brought up to interstate standards.

"If you don't build, then there will be an increase in your transportation costs," she said. "What that increase in transportation cost suggests is that you would grow by about 80 fewer jobs on average per year."

"Are you saying from this study that if we do not build it is going to cost our area a half a billion dollars in income?" committee Chairman Joe Daughtery asked. "If you don't build it, the way I look at it, it is going to cost our region a half a billion dollars in income to our citizens?

"We need to connect one Interstate with another," Daughtery said. "I-95 is the lifeline, but 40 is beginning to be the lifeline for southeastern North Carolina. If 795 is connected in it just brings us right to the forefront."

The plan is to extend the I-795 to I-40 in Sampson County, using portions of the existing U.S. 117 south of the Wayne County Fairgrounds.

In preparing the analysis, the four alternative routes for the extension were averaged together, Ms. Dowell said.

The study looked at overall traffic volume as well.

The next step examined how those direct impacts would affect business competitiveness.

"How does it change the productivity, and here we are really talking about a lot of your truck productivity and your inventory carrying costs," Ms. Dowell said. "How does it allow you to manage your supply chain better?"

Also reduced travel time could figure into a person deciding to move to the area and commute to work in another county. When people do so, they look at travel time and not so much the distance, she said.