Monday, January 07, 2008

Quad Cities expansion closer to reality -- study released today shows cheaper cost

Good news!

Amtrak released a study of expansion to the Quad Cities and the numbers look great.

The press release from Amtrak announcing the release (as well as the meat of the study) and the the study itself on the Illinois Department of Transportation's website are both linked.

The capital costs to upgrade the track are around $14 to $23 million -- so incredibly cheap compared to a highway or airport expansion!

Since we're in the midst of discussion about a casino-fueled capital investment by the State, allocating $14 to $23 million for expanding Amtrak to the Quad Cities should be an easy priority.

We had thought the cost might be in the $45 to $60 million range. As it turns out, it could be, if the route would have connected up with existing service at Joliet. Instead, it's much cheaper to connect up with existing service west of Princeton on the Quincy-Chicago line instead of looping through LaSalle and Morri to hook up with the St. Louis-Chicago line at Joliet.

The annual operating cost is projected to be around $8.5 million to run two daily round-trips (at speeds faster than driving). Ridership is projected to be between 90,000 and 110,000 depending on how fast the trip takes (the faster the trip, the higher the ridership and thus the more ticket revenue is generated). That ticket revenue is projected to be around $2 million, leaving a $6 million annual operating cost for the state to run those trains. Again, such a cheap way to invest in economic development for the entire region!

It looks like Amtrak and IDOT did a very nice job with this report, so congratulations to them (as well as to Senator Dick Durbin who showed a lot of leadership to help get Amtrak expansion to new markets on the political map after the General Assembly and the Governor doubled frequency on existing routes in 2006).

Note to other elected officials in the nation: score some points by convening local stakeholders around Amtrak expansion or increased frequencies. People love it and you'll be doing your job. Just ask Dick Durbin.

Thanks and congratulations also to the Quad Cities Passenger Rail Coalition, a project of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, for organizing and mobilizing thousands of residents behind this investment.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home