Monday, January 26, 2015

Study: Inland Waterways Investment Could Mean $14 Million in Jobs

By Mark Edward Nero

The National Waterways Foundation, a Washington, DC-area based research center, on Jan. 26 released a two-year study examining the waterways’ national economic return on investment and the need for and benefits of an accelerated program of waterways system improvements that sustain and create jobs.

The study, conducted by the University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky, is titled “Inland Navigation in the United States: An Evaluation of Economic Impacts and the Potential Effects of Infrastructure Investment.”

It evaluates the inland navigation system as it is currently funded and configured, and as it might be through renewed infrastructure investment. The study begins with a basic analytical framework examining navigation’s role as a productive input in various industrial processes and reflects actual, real-world economic interactions and consequences if the system were to suddenly shut down and then if proper infrastructure investments were made.

Specifically, the study found that:
  • Investment in badly needed modernization improvements to America’s inland waterways’ aging lock and dam infrastructure could lead to 350,000 job-years of new, full-time employment with a present value of more than $14 billion over the 10-year period examined in the study.
  • Investment in inland waterways could sustain 541,000 jobs and over $1 billion in new job income annually.
  • If 21 priority navigation projects were completed at an estimated total cost of $5.8 billion, the 20-year sum of related economic output activity would exceed $82 billion.
  • New freight capacity could result in robust economic impact in the creation of some 12,000 new full-time, permanent jobs each year with annual incomes in excess of $500 million.
  • If commercial shipping on US waterways ceased entirely, there would be immediate, devastating economic consequences with a total 10-year loss of $1 trillion. Also, shipping costs would increase by about $12.5 billion.
  • With a loss of waterways’ shipping, an estimated 75 percent of freight would be diverted to truck and/or rail, and there would be a 25 percent loss due to decreased production.