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Road to nowhere

If the current trend in stimulus fund allocations continues, it appears Southwest Virginia’s unemployed will have to relocate to reap the job benefits the recovery plan is supposed to create.
The first round of economic stimulus funds for transportation projects in the Commonwealth have been approved, but Southwest Virginia hasn’t faired too well so far.
Virginia recently submitted $307 million in projects to obligate half of the approximately $700 million in transportation funds it will be receiving from the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
When the act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, it was intended to jumpstart the economy by creating and saving millions of jobs. According to a Wednesday report by Associated Press, projects to which money will be obligated are to represent “critical needs” and are to “substantially represent highway initiatives in areas of high unemployment.”
However, an analysis of projects recently approved for Virginia shows that the largest portion of projects and dollars are concentrated in Northern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, while Southwest Virginia lags drastically behind despite its high unemployment figures.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, around $37 million has been approved for projects in eight localities in Southwest Virginia with an average 8.7 percent unemployment rate.
In comparison, the Eastern Shore (excluding the Delmarva Peninsula) will receive $103 million for 10 localities with an average jobless rate of 8.25 percent. Northern Virginia will receive $90 million for 11 jurisdictions with an average 6.4 percent unemployment rate.
Washington D.C., with its 10.7 percent jobless rate, will receive $1.4 billion from the federal government, DOT figures show.
Those same figures reveal that some of the Northern Virginia jurisdictions receiving the most funding actually have unemployment rates considered to represent full employment. Full employment is considered 5 percent, according to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).
Loudon County, with a 5 percent rate, has been approved for $23 million and Spotsylvania County (5.8 percent) will get $25 million.
Only one locality in Southwest Virginia received comparable funding: Botetourt County (6.7 percent) at $22 million. The remaining seven area jurisdictions will receive a total of $15 million. Wythe County will receive the highest amount ($7 million) of those localities.
Pulaski County (12.4 percent), including the towns of Dublin and Pulaski, submitted more than $208 million in transportation funding requests under the stimulus plan. Although half of those projects are shovel-ready, none were funded in the first round.
Shovel-ready projects are those ready to begin immediately. Such projects are supposed to receive priority under the stimulus plan because they would immediately create jobs to boost the economy.
Local projects submitted include replacement of one of the Interstate 81 bridges at Exit 105, improvements and bridge replacement on Route 114, widening of East Main Street in Pulaski, further extension of the New River Trail, sidewalk replacement in Pulaski, rehabilitation of the runway at New River Valley Airport, improvements to Peppers Ferry Road and paving of gravel roads.

Road to nowhere

If the current trend in stimulus fund allocations continues, it appears Southwest Virginia’s unemployed will have to relocate to reap the job benefits the recovery plan is supposed to create.
The first round of economic stimulus funds for transportation projects in the Commonwealth have been approved, but Southwest Virginia hasn’t faired too well so far.
Virginia recently submitted $307 million in projects to obligate half of the approximately $700 million in transportation funds it will be receiving from the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
When the act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, it was intended to jumpstart the economy by creating and saving millions of jobs. According to a Wednesday report by Associated Press, projects to which money will be obligated are to represent “critical needs” and are to “substantially represent highway initiatives in areas of high unemployment.”
However, an analysis of projects recently approved for Virginia shows that the largest portion of projects and dollars are concentrated in Northern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, while Southwest Virginia lags drastically behind despite its high unemployment figures.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, around $37 million has been approved for projects in eight localities in Southwest Virginia with an average 8.7 percent unemployment rate.
In comparison, the Eastern Shore (excluding the Delmarva Peninsula) will receive $103 million for 10 localities with an average jobless rate of 8.25 percent. Northern Virginia will receive $90 million for 11 jurisdictions with an average 6.4 percent unemployment rate.
Washington D.C., with its 10.7 percent jobless rate, will receive $1.4 billion from the federal government, DOT figures show.
Those same figures reveal that some of the Northern Virginia jurisdictions receiving the most funding actually have unemployment rates considered to represent full employment. Full employment is considered 5 percent, according to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).
Loudon County, with a 5 percent rate, has been approved for $23 million and Spotsylvania County (5.8 percent) will get $25 million.
Only one locality in Southwest Virginia received comparable funding: Botetourt County (6.7 percent) at $22 million. The remaining seven area jurisdictions will receive a total of $15 million. Wythe County will receive the highest amount ($7 million) of those localities.
Pulaski County (12.4 percent), including the towns of Dublin and Pulaski, submitted more than $208 million in transportation funding requests under the stimulus plan. Although half of those projects are shovel-ready, none were funded in the first round.
Shovel-ready projects are those ready to begin immediately. Such projects are supposed to receive priority under the stimulus plan because they would immediately create jobs to boost the economy.
Local projects submitted include replacement of one of the Interstate 81 bridges at Exit 105, improvements and bridge replacement on Route 114, widening of East Main Street in Pulaski, further extension of the New River Trail, sidewalk replacement in Pulaski, rehabilitation of the runway at New River Valley Airport, improvements to Peppers Ferry Road and paving of gravel roads.