Cook County will authorize a study that will evaluate trucking and rail freight needs and recommend improvements to the system that will lead to jobs and economic development, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said today.
The Cook County Board approved a $1 million appropriation at its monthly meeting today for the freight rail study. Funded by a planning grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation and through Motor Fuel Tax revenue, a consultant will be hired and work under the supervision of the County’s Department of Transportation and Highways to conduct the study over the next two years.
Ultimately, the study will deliver recommendations that will better accommodate and improve current and future freight and rail traffic, ease congestion and spur development of additional manufacturing and warehousing in Cook County, Preckwinkle said. The end result should be a better economic climate and job creation, she said.
“Our plan for economic development includes improvement and growth and freight rail traffic as a key strategy,” Preckwinkle said. “Cook County is home to a vast concentration of rail lines and intermodal facilities, so the health and development of this industry is vital to the future growth of jobs and the economy of our region.”
This effort will build on previous County initiatives to promote the freight rail industry in the target areas. The County is currently funding road improvements in several locations – in and around the huge CN Intermodal facility in Harvey, for example – to support cargo-oriented development and related industrial jobs.
In 2014, Cook County boasted some 290,000 jobs directly linked to freight, manufacturing and logistics, according to figures provided by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Available data indicate the region’s existing intermodal facilities – where containers are transferred between rail lines and trucks -- annually move approximately 6.8 million containers (known as “lifts”), and also directly generate more than 40,000 truck trips daily. During the next decade, the estimated increase in the number of “lifts” and truck/freight traffic is expected to easily exceed 20 percent.
Preckwinkle further pointed out that the study will help support the County’s ongoing work on a Long Range Transportation Plan, which was launched during the winter. That plan is to include assessing the current state of affairs and future needs of all forms of transportation, including the likely needs of freight rail operations.
“The infrastructure needs of freight and rail are critical to future economic development in Cook County,” Preckwinkle said. “Expansion in freight and logistics is considered one of our most promising opportunities for job creation, and by determining how we can support the growth of these industries, we can help move the needle in positive ways for Cook County residents.”