Study estimates 10-1 return on investment for east-west rail

May 11, 2021 | G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – A new study concludes the return on investment on east-west passenger rail would be $10 for every dollar spent on the development of the new service. The study by the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG) – in consultation with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC)  – was released on May 6.

The study furthered reported a direct link between job development and retention with increased rail service.

Congressman Richard Neal, a proponent for the additional rail service, was joined at the event by Congressman John Larson of Connecticut. They spoke about the meeting at a press event at Union Station.

Neal said the study “confirms what new rail service could do for the Springfield, Hartford, Worcester, New Haven areas.”

Larson said, “We’re presented with this once-in-a -lifetime opportunity that would bring $50 to $80 billion in economic value returned over the next 50 years.”

The study advances the idea that additional rail service is an important part of job development in the future. “Together, these two outcomes ­– the gradual attraction of 20,000 to 40,000 ‘missing’ professional service jobs and the construction of station-area development – account for an estimated $47 to $84 billion in directly generated regional GDP over 30 years, including $27 to $48 billion in wages. An additional $15 to $21 billion of indirect and induced GDP is estimated as well,” the study reported.

Citing the growth difference between the Hartford-Springfield areas and the greater Boston region, the study noted, “The Metro Hartford-Springfield region suffered a degradation of passenger rail service in the 1970s and 1980s, coincident with its regional economic decline. Metro Hartford-Springfield was hurt, like other parts of the Northeast Corridor, by long-term decline and disinvestment in general and by the recession of 1988-90 in particular, and then by the Great Recession of 2008. An asset that might have helped the region recover and diversify (and that did help other Northeast Corridor cities recover) was missing – rail connectivity.”

Grounding the study in economic outcomes, it was reported that “While economic underperformance in the Hartford-Springfield region has a number of causes, our analysis found that missing regional rail access has led to a jobs gap in the key growth sectors of information, finance, and professional services. This gap is estimated at between 20,000 and 40,000 positions that should have located (or stayed) in the Metro Hartford-Springfield region since 1990 but didn’t, due to limited regional rail access. This finding rests on a statistical analysis of US counties and metro areas, focused on the relationship between the creation of jobs in the relevant sectors and levels of regional rail/transit use, including whether regional or commuter rail is present.”

The study noted the construction of the project would range between $6.743 billion and $9,668 billion.

The study showed such an east-west service, coupled with existing Connecticut commuter trains would link Pittsfield in the west with communities north to Greenfield, south to New Haven and east to Worcester.

State Sen. Eric Lesser, who has long been advocating for east-west rail, told Reminder Publishing, “The recent CRCOG and PVPC findings made it loud and clear that the initial MassDOT study ridership estimates were incomplete, and that connecting Springfield, Worcester, and Boston could be a game changer for economic development across Massachusetts. We need continued focus on rail investment here in Massachusetts to create jobs and unlock opportunity for every part of the commonwealth.”

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