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TDOT reports regional impact of Corridor J

Bobbie Maynard
Tuesday, Mar 1, 2005

The Tennessee Department of Transportation recently released a final report summarizing the economic impacts of 11 proposed highway corridors, one of which could complete the Corridor J project.

The analysis, submitted to TDOT by Wilbur Smith Associates, reveals results from a traffic forecast, travel efficiency benefit study and an economic impact analysis for each corridor proposal.

“This data was provided to members of the citizens resource team, so they could make a recommendation to the department,” said Ann Andrews, TDOT project manager for Corridor J. “It’s up to them as to where they want to place emphasis in their recommendation, whether it’s on this economic report, the environment report or the public survey.”

The citizens resource team consists of representatives from the Corridor J project area, which includes six counties (Putnam, Jackson, White, Overton, Clay, and Pickett).

This team was formed to consider data and make recommendations on the location of the roadway.

According to the report, using the Appalachian Regional Commission Local Economic Assessment Package (LEAP) model, the top corridors in terms of job creation are DGHILM, DZA/BCXVTQS and DZA/BCX, all of which extend from White County near the airport to Interstate 40 (see map). Other corridors that offer significant potential are the variations of X to M route through Pickett County.

As indicated by Wilbur Smith Associates, the ARC LEAP is intended to “more fully capture the true economic role of the proposed corridor” rather than basing impacts on travel efficiency benefits alone. The ARC LEAP model incorporates the following factors that affect the location of businesses:

  • Costs of doing business
  • Size of labor and customer markets
  • Access to air, sea, railroad and highway facilities and broadband telecom networks
  • Availability of appropriate land and buildings
  • Education and skill training
  • Business support climate
  • Tourism attractions

The Biggest Economic Impact

Using this model, the DZA/BCX portion of the proposed corridor would offer “the greatest economic development impact” by providing for 839 annual jobs. The report cites the new roadway as the key to this job creation by providing the airport with better access to I-40. This would allow for more available land for development along the corridor.

Paula Dowell, vice president for economic freight and finance at Wilbur Smith Associates and author of the study, explained the job creation numbers.

“According to the ARC LEAP model, the annual number of jobs given for each corridor represents the number of additional jobs that could be supported by the road. However, that number is not cumulative. It does not mean that 800 jobs will be created one year and additional 800 on top of that the next year.”

Despite the potential economic impact, portions of these corridors received high opposition in a public opinion survey conducted last year. For example, the link DG received 98% in opposition. Opposition to DZA and DZB was also in the high 90s. On the other hand, GHILM was supported by a margin of 53%.

The Case for Clay County

According to the ARC LEAP, the DGHILM corridor could create 682 jobs annually, which could benefit the economy with Clay County. For 2005, ARC designated Clay County as an economically distressed community.

“The original intent of Corridor J was to help economically distressed communities and to build a corridor to connect Chattanooga to London, KY.,” said Randall Killman, executive director of the Celina-Clay County Chamber of Commerce.

Clay County is included in two of the routes – the one to make Highway 53 a four-lane road up to the Kentucky state line and the one to make Highway 52 a four-lane road from Celina to Overton County, where it would connect with state route 111.

“These two routes would benefit our county the most. Of the six counties involved in this project, Clay County has the lowest per capital income, highest unemployment rate, highest poverty rate and the least amount of people awarded high school diplomas or college degrees. So, our county is in the hardest economic situation,” observed Killman.

Clay County Mayor Luke Collins noted that his county has had a high unemployment rate since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which resulted in the departure of OshKosh B’Gosh from the county.

“The ARC funds are intended for the needy, not the greedy,” said Collins. “Corridor J should be built where it would have the most positive impact, and I feel that would be here in Clay County. The corridor was meant to bring jobs and opportunities to rural areas, not fix traffic flow problems.”

“TDOT and the ARC are interested in the economic benefits that the completion of this corridor could produce because that is what the Appalachian funds are set up to accomplish,” added Andrews.

The Road from Here

The funding in place for Corridor J comes from the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965. According to its Web site, the purpose of this act is to assist in the construction of specific roadways to “open up an area or areas with a development potential where commerce and communications have been inhibited by lack of access.”

The economic study concluded that “while the potential economic benefits are positive and in some cases significant relative to the regions’ economy as a whole, there is no statistically difference in potential economic benefits between many of the corridors. Therefore, it will be difficult to use economic development impacts as a deciding criteria in determining which corridors move forward in the process.”

Corridor J is one of the six different Appalachian corridors in Tennessee. It begins in Chattanooga and ends at the Kentucky state line. Most of the corridor is complete except for a small link between highways 111 and 56 near the Cookeville area.

[For more information on the Corridor J project and to view the complete report, “Appalachian Corridor J Traffic Forecast, Travel Efficiency Benefits, and Economic Impact Analysis,” visit www.tdot.state.tn.us/css/corridor/index.html.]

[The next Corridor J meeting of the citizens resource team is scheduled for March 29 from 8-8 p.m. in the Livingston Academy cafeteria.]


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