The elimination of the proposed Redline and the lack of any alternative transit plan or even a comprehensive transit plan that would enhance the efficient movement of individuals in all directions within the metro area and specifically the City was tragic. However, I am pleased that some of the money will go to improve the aging Maryland highway infrastructure system. Now, before everyone jumps down my throat for what I am about to write, my focus is purely on the commercial aspects of the highway system. While I certainly do not want to discount the traffic woes of the everyday commuter, myself included, I recognize that highways serve a purpose of not just enabling employees to get to work but also the expedient delivery of goods and services to a wide array of customers.
Maryland Highway Infrastructure Generates Jobs
Approximately 65% of all cargo by value is delivered by trucks and another 11% is through multimodal-rail to truck. Over three quarters of the cargo by value is transported along some road surface, most likely highways. Moreover, the trend in freight has been smaller and lighter, but high-value commodities as well as just-in-time manufacturing has put pressure on the trucking industry to deliver. However, the ability to deliver these vital goods and services to their designated places is wholly dependent on an efficient highway system.
The building and maintaining of highway infrastructure generates jobs and output, but just like a business owner who purchases new equipment to increase productivity, investments in highway infrastructure do increase productivity and therefore economic growth. In a 1998 study, The Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University estimated that investments and improvements in highway infrastructure over the period 1982 through 1996 contributed 4% to Maryland’s economic growth over that period. This 4% growth is not related to the economic gains due to the construction of the highways but to their operation. This is a critical distinction.
Impact of Maryland Highway Infrastructure to the Economy
That sounds impressive maybe? According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) website, Maryland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1997 was around $215 billion in constant dollars, and by 2014, Maryland’s GDP had increased to around $320 billion in constant dollars. Over the 17-year period from 1997 to 2014, Maryland’s economy grew by $106 billion (constant dollars), of which our state highway system contributed nearly $4.25 billion to the economic growth due to its operational aspects.
Every year, on average, the highway system contributes nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to Maryland’s economy in terms of increased efficiency allowing trade of goods and services to reach their destinations. The loss of the Redline is tragic and with no real alternative plan will continue to hinder Baltimore City’s ability to move people efficiently across the region. However, the improvements in the highway system will enable Maryland to continue its economic growth, and perhaps that increased prosperity can be used to address some of our transportation challenges.