Tourism benefits alone substantiate $1.2 billion federal investment in faster train service from Chicago to St. Louis
By Chrissy Mancini Nichols
April 30, 2010
This post first appeared at metroplanning.org
Tourism-related spending, higher state, local tax revenues, job creation would yield billions
Illinois was awarded $1.2 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to improve the current Chicago-to-St. Louis rail corridor. This improved rail service will entice people to make the trip to Chicago that they otherwise would not have. Projections show that over the next 10 years, about 800,000 new tourists will visit Chicago because of the rail improvements, providing a major boost to the local economy.
I studied the economic benefits resulting from these new tourists over the first 10 years of rail operation. I analyzed how much money new tourists will spend (direct spending), how much money Chicagoans will spend as a result of tourist spending (indirect spending), and how our state and local tax revenues will grow as a result:
• $320 million in direct new tourist spending
• $510 million in total direct and indirect spending as a result
• $120 million in new state and local tax revenue
• 5,300 jobs as a result of tourist spending and building of the Englewood flyover bridge near 63rdstreet
• $2.6 billion of additional income from job creation
These numbers do not factor in potential economic gains such as new hotels built to serve new tourists, or downtown investments sparked by the development of the West Loop Transportation Center, which will serve as the terminus for fast trains coming to Chicago.
Better rail service also means travelers will choose the train over trips they would have taken by air, bus or car, reducing harmful emissions and gas consumption. I examined the environmental impacts and found:
• 9.3 million barrels of gas saved
• .12 million tons of CO2 saved, the equivalent of half a million roundtrip car trips from Chicago to St. Louis
While the $1.2 billion investment will cut the time it takes to get from Chicago to St. Louis by an hour-and-a-half to four hours, at an average speed of 62 mph it will be far from the high-speed bullet trains whizzing around Europe and Japan. Building a train line that could cupport truly high-speed rail would take an entire new track and billions of dollars more - but it would cut travel time down to two hours, truly link the economies of both cities, and attract millions more riders.
President Obama has pledged to budget $1 billion per year over the next five years for high speed rail, so there is opportunity for more federal funding for Illinois and the rest of the Midwest.