Metro Hartford-Springfield Rail Improvements Would Produce Major Economic Benefits
A new report commissioned by the Capitol Region Council of Governments and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission estimates significant economic benefits would result from two sets of proposed passenger rail improvements. The improvements, which include finishing the Hartford Line and connecting it to Worcester, Massachusetts, would have a transformative effect on regional and state economies. The report projects between $47 and $84 billion in new regional Gross Domestic Product over 30 years would result from the $6 to $9 billion rail investment. This investment would reconstitute a 21st century version of the prior Inland Route—regular train service from Boston to New York via Worcester, Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven, which the region has now lacked for decades.
The high level of projected benefits would result from the Metro Hartford-Springfield region regaining lost ground from decades of disinvestment. Hartford-Springfield lost most of its intercity rail service in the 1970s, and service all but disappeared from 2004 until the Hartford Line was launched in 2018. As a result, compared to the Northeast Corridor and other US metro areas, Hartford-Springfield has undergone a prolonged period of low rail use, as well as low combined rail and transit use.
Since 1990, annual job growth in Metro Hartford-Springfield has lagged far behind that of the Northeast Corridor as a whole, representing about 130,000 jobs not created in this region. Slow job growth has been accompanied by an aging housing stock, slow population and wage growth, and widening inequalities of opportunity and income. In short, Metro Hartford-Springfield has fallen structurally behind the rest of the Northeast Corridor.
The report says that some 20,000 to 40,000 jobs in information technology, finance, and professional services are “missing” from Metro Hartford-Springfield because of the lack of regional and intercity rail connectivity. These jobs, which have fueled growth elsewhere in the Northeast, are particularly attracted to rail transit availability. With rail connectivity restored, these jobs can be attracted over time.
Inland Route rail improvements between New Haven and Worcester would serve 16 existing and future rail stations. Recent and planned development in these station areas suggests a strong market for interconnected residential communities, employment centers, and public destinations. Analysis reveals an aggregate station area potential of about 20 million square feet of commercial development and 30,000 housing units.
Together, these two outcomes—the gradual attraction of 20,000-40,000 “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.