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Parkways impact to be huge
Study says road will pay for itself, once its built
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Effingham County will reap the benefits of Effingham Parkway many times over, says a study conducted by Georgia Southern University.

And the impact won’t be confined to Effingham — several neighboring counties also could see a big economic boost from the proposed road.

“Time is money,” said Dr. Phyllis Isley, who presented the Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development’s study findings to county commissioners. “By reducing travel time, we raise profits for businesses.”

The parkway, which would run from Highway 119 to the intersection of Jimmy Deloach Parkway and I-95, is expected to relieve congestion off Highways 21 and 80 once it’s built. Concepts for the road currently have the parkway running west of and parallel to a natural gas line easement.

The researchers converted the time lost in traffic and the expenses that go with that into costs that become burdens for businesses and homes.

“The analysis is extended to answer the question — if the Effingham Parkway is built to relieve traffic congestion, will there be tangible economic benefits,” Isley said.

“In terms of payoff, the benefits outweigh the cost. The road pays for itself in a very short period of time. Even in three years after construction,  you will recover the cost of the road. The benefits are significant and spill over the border. And the impacts in the county are significant.”

In the study, researchers used their most stringent tests, she said, and assumed the road would be financed entirely locally. They pegged the cost of the road at $135.4 million.

“We have taxes to pay for the road,” Isley said. “That drags the economy. But when the road is built, it expands the economy.”

The parkway’s benefits would be felt across Effingham, Chatham and Bulloch counties, and the largest gainer will be Rincon, the study said.

Chatham County businesses — nearly 70 percent of Effingham’s workforce is employed in Chatham — would gain from the parkway, but the pluses for Effingham’s businesses would outpace those for Chatham.

“The impacts are dispersed across a number of sectors,” Isley said.

The total return on the road in 2020 — should it be finished and any necessary taxes to build it having had a sunset by then — in gross regional product is expected to be $2.1 billion. Effingham County will gain an increase in output of $47.4 million in 2020.

Using the model designed by Regional Economic Modeling, Inc., employment in the region is expected to grow by 2,400 jobs with the road built, as opposed to no Effingham Parkway being constructed. In Effingham County, that job gain is targeted at 960, about 38 percent of the increase for the region. Rincon is expected to be the largest gainer, getting 450 jobs, with Springfield adding 215, according to the study.

Real disposable income also is expected to increase by $203.2 million in the region, with an increase of $77.2 million in Effingham in 2020. Home values also will shoot up by an estimated $45 million in Effingham, compared to their values if the road is not built.

Effingham County businesses also will account for 49 percent of the expected increases in the values of businesses.

The county’s population, estimated to be 57,878 in 2012, is expected to swell to nearly 70,000 by 2035.

“The congestion problem is not going to go away,” Isley said.

Showing the benefits of the road may help get Chatham County on board with getting it built. About 12 miles of the parkway will be built in Effingham and about three miles will be built in Chatham. But as receptive to the idea as Chatham leaders have been, it’s also not at the top of their list of priorities, either, Effingham commissioners said.

“One of the hardest sells is Chatham,” said Commissioner Verna Phillips.

Said Isley: “They gain over $900 million from this. There are no losers in this.”