A new report projects the Houston region’s economy to grow significantly in 2013, which means an increasing demand for transportation infrastructure, according to The Houston Chronicle:
Houston tops a list of [metro regions] expected to see an economic boost in the coming year, a report released last week by the U.S. Conference of Mayors concluded.
The report projected Houston would be the largest of 50 metro areas expected have a growth rate of 3 percent or more in “gross metropolitan product,” the local version of the gross domestic product.
But Houston and other major metro areas also face the prospect of more growth than they can handle, according to mayors gathered for a meeting in Philadelphia.
In particular, mayors warned that a failure to invest in transportation infrastructure could mean skyrocketing costs over the next decade.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker said the concern that federal underfunding of urban areas could hurt the fledgling growth is real and warned that important projects that cities are planning often are haphazardly funded by the federal government.
She argued that while metro areas are responsible for 90.7 percent of the nation’s real GDP, 89.9 percent of wage and salary income, 85.8 percent of jobs and 83.7 percent of population, they get a far smaller share of federal transportation dollars, proportionally speaking.
“The top 10 city metro areas in the United States have a greater GDP than 35 states added together,” Parker said in an interview. “I shouldn’t have to compete with rural areas in some other part of the country for desperately needed transit dollars, for example, since I represent such a large piece of the population.”
The city also faces other transportation challenges. The Port of Houston, Parker said, needs more federal dollars.
“Our port authority desperately needs funds to do dredging, channel maintenance in the Port of Houston. And yet, our harbor maintenance fees that we collect go to the federal government and then get dispersed around the country,” she said. “If you just left us alone and allowed us to reinvest the money that we generate back in our own port, instead of sending us a fraction of it back, we’d have a phenomenal port.”
The report, by IHS Global Insight, forecasts that 300 of 363 metro areas will see growth in gross metro product by the end of 2013.
The report was further analyzed by Houston CultureMap:
Forecasts anticipate the biggest boom in the South and estimate that the populations of No. 1 Houston, Dallas and San Antonio will advance by more than 50 percent by 2042.
And so the report indicates, more than anything, an urgent need for infrastructure improvements — from roads to ports and beyond — to absorb that growth.
“Houston and Dallas already rank among the most congested metros; if there is not significant investment in infrastructure congestion costs will be astronomical and will stifle long-term economic potential,” the report warns.