Sharing New Trains’ Economic Impacts
March 24, 2023
By Jim Mathews / President & CEO
With just days to go before the Federal Railroad Administration closes its first round of submissions to the rolling Corridor ID Program, your Association has been hard at work preparing economic-impact analyses to support a lot of great submissions from around the country.
Particularly striking results emerged this week as we looked at two proposals which have been in the news of late – the I-20 corridor, which would finally connect an obvious hole in the Southeast by linking Meridian, MS, and Marshall, TX, and the I-10 corridor, which would finally bring some service to the East beyond Mobile, AL, that has gone missing since Hurricane Katrina nearly two decades ago.
We were asked to look at how Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas might benefit from an Amtrak proposal to extend service on the Crescent route from Meridian, MS, to Fort Worth, TX, while simultaneously operating a modified consist on the Crescent’s current route to New Orleans. The results were tremendous: we found the dozen communities that would be served by that extension could see a $50.2 million economic shot in the arm, and overall, the three states would see an economic benefit of $207 million in 2023 dollars.
For Mississippi alone, Rail Passengers’ modeling suggests $73.4 million in annual benefit to the state and to four locations in the state that would be served: Meridian, the Jackson/Evers airport, Jackson itself, and Vicksburg, supporting 77 direct jobs in the state. For Louisiana, we found $70 million in annual benefit to the state, supporting 81 direct jobs, and in Texas our model showed $63.5 million and 65 direct jobs.
The City of Pensacola also asked us to examine how an Amtrak proposal to extend a portion of its City of New Orleans route from New Orleans to Orlando (while simultaneously operating the new state-supported service launching soon between New Orleans and Mobile) might look for Pensacola and a few other communities along the route. We found that project could generate anywhere from $47 million to as much as $62 million for Alabama and Florida, even if we only modeled getting as far as Tallahassee.
We didn’t just run models this week; we also submitted letters of support to FRA for projects around the country.
We can show through rigorous economic analysis that every IIJA/Bipartisan Investment Law dollar we invest in passenger rail will generate many multiples in annual benefits to the communities and the states where these new and improved services will run. That’s what we like to call Return on Taxpayers’ Equity, and it’s why we do this work to support the worthy submissions being prepared even now as you read this note. It’s a truly exciting time to be involved in passenger rail, with so much promise on the horizon!
"I wish to extend my appreciation to members of the Rail Passengers Association for their steadfast advocacy to protect not only the Southwest Chief, but all rail transportation which plays such an important role in our economy and local communities. I look forward to continuing this close partnership, both with America’s rail passengers and our bipartisan group of senators, to ensure a bright future for the Southwest Chief route."
Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)
April 2, 2019, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award for his work to protect the Southwest Chief