Tipping Point: Downtown growth accelerating, transit falls back - Fox 2 News Headlines

Tipping Point: Downtown growth accelerating, transit falls behind

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

While some parts of the region rust away, downtown success is outstripping infrastructure.

If you've ever had the frustrating feeling that Chicago's chronic traffic congestion was costing you not only time, but money, one study put a dollar figure on it.

"Shocking in its result, it showed that the overall price tag to the region was a whopping $7 billion annually…[from] Congestion, lost time, lost productivity," said MarySue Barret of the Metropolitan Planning Council.

Barrett's Metropolitan Planning Council estimates that speeding up travel times, especially in and out of America's fastest-growing downtown, would help create 80,000 new jobs.

It's not just crowded expressways that threaten to choke off growth though. Rush hour trains are often standing room only.

There's no more space, literally, to squeeze in even one more car on one more train during peak travel times at Union Station.

One-hundred-twenty-thousand people pass through each day, more than at Midway Airport, where more than a billion dollars was spent to modernize.

Since then, money's gotten much tighter.

Experts said Union Station could accommodate another 40,000 daily commuters. However, reconfiguring the passenger platforms and the tracks would cost about $350 million. Similarly, sections of the CTA's Red Line and Purple Line are now crowded beyond capacity at rush hour. Adding room for another 100,000 commuters could cost a whopping $3 to $4 billion, though clearing the way for future growth in a region that's had far too little of it.

"That's going to generate economic value, make our roadways work better and, you know, that number's gonna' dwarf what we're losing today," said Barrett.

Fewer commuters on the road would be a big plus for Chicago area truckers and companies that employ about 155,000 people here moving freight in and out of warehouses and vast new intermodal rail yards in the South Suburbs.

A generation ago, the workers here might have labored in a local factory. Now, they move products primarily made in China and other Asian countries.

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