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Mining Recovery Act Data for Opportunities to Improve the State of Practice for Overall Economic Impact Analysis of Transportation Investments

Practitioners and stakeholders often cite the creation of short-term jobs as an important justification for new transportation investments. However, credible information about the short-term economic impacts is frequently missing from important transportation decision-making processes (such as long-range transportation plans and programming of projects, to mention a few) due to the lack of access to reliable economic data.

Under the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), states, MPOs, transit agencies, and other agencies are collecting and reporting a wealth of data on the short-term jobs impacts of ARRA-funded transportation projects. This creates a unique opportunity to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of jobs data in describing the stimulative economic impacts of transportation investments. This research assesses the process for reporting short-term job data, reviews previous reports and findings, discusses data limitations, and conducts an analysis of the short-term direct job impact of ARRA spending at the national level and for four individual states. It should be noted that the focus of this research is on direct short-term jobs, thus it does not include an evaluation of indirect or induced jobs. Furthermore, the research says nothing about the long-term impacts of transportation investment on economic competitiveness and performance which are likely to be much more significant than the short-term impacts.

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