Delaware tries new funding formula to build better roads, attract businesses

Work on a new bridge connecting the Wilmington Riverfront to Rt. 13 is nearing completion. Gov. John Carney hopes new transportation funding to help businesses complete road projects will keep companies in Delaware. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Work on a new bridge connecting the Wilmington Riverfront to Rt. 13 is nearing completion. Gov. John Carney hopes new transportation funding to help businesses complete road projects will keep companies in Delaware. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Build a better road and Delaware thinks that by building better roads — they might be able to attract more business.

With a newly built bridge across the Christina River at the Wilmington Riverfront as a backdrop, Governor John Carney signed legislation creating the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund.

The fund will provide grant money so companies can pay for road improvements to help expand their facilities in the state. It’s designed to speed up the sometimes sluggish process of getting road improvements approved and completed.

“It just means that Delaware will be more competitive with states in the region and it means that we’ll have more flexibility in reacting to business needs for businesses here and for businesses that we want to attract here,” Carney said. “When we want to give an incentive to a company to stay here instead of moving to Maryland or moving their jobs to Pennsylvania or New Jersey, this will give us a tool in doing that.”

State Sen. Stephanie Hansen, who sponsored the bill, said the delay in getting road projects done is something that business leaders take into account when deciding where to expand.

“One of the big pieces that needs to be in place are whether the roads are equipped to handle and is the growth coming? Is it in place or is it planned to be there within a reasonable period of time,” Hansen said. “In many cases, that wasn’t the case because we would have to wait years for a particular project to come on line.”

Lawmakers approved $10 million for the fund in its first year. That’s small change compared to the $300 million the state Dept. of Transportation will spend on road projects this fiscal year. “It really is a very localized kind of improvement that’s needed to help a business expand,” Carney said. “It’s not a big project.”

Looking at the bigger picture, the fund will be used to convince businesses to stay or move to Delaware.

The bill creates a nine-member council that will consider applications from businesses and makes recommendations for funding to DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan and Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock.

Over the next six years, Delaware is expected to spend $3.9 billion to upgrade the state’s roads and bridges in an effort to improve safety, alleviate congestion and attract new businesses.

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