The Chicago region, as America's leading railroad hub, is crisscrossed by 2,800 miles of railroad tracks. The level of rail activity and the numerous road-rail crossings have led to substantial bottlenecks and delays for both road and rail vehicles, with negative cost and efficiency implications for the railroads as well as the broader regional economy. As a step to address the problem, the Canadian National (CN) Railway decided to acquire a suburban short line (the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway) to shunt some of its traffic away from rail facilities in the city. A civic organization, Chicago Metropolis 2020, authorized a study to examine impacts on the Chicago region economy.
The consultant study examined transportation system impacts - including rail carrier operations impacts, motor vehicle delay impacts, vehicle emission impacts, passenger transit impacts and truck-to- rail diversion impacts. That information was input to a TREDIS economic impact model to estimate the expected economic impacts on the economy of the Chicago metropolitan region. The analysis showed that the proposed action would increase use of rail freight, take more trucks off crowded highways and free up other rail lines for increased commuter travel. The TREDIS analysis showed that this would ultimately spur growth of the nation's Gross Domestic Product as well as the regional economy, creating net new jobs and income in the region. The transfer was subsequently approved by the Surface Transportation Board.