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Informed Investment: Enhancing Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor with a Comprehensive Economic Impact Analysis


New Acela Fleet Train Testing on the Northeast Corridor Track.
New Acela Fleet Testing on the Northeast Corridor. © Amtrak Media.

The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is a vital transportation artery, connecting major cities from Boston to Washington, DC, over its expansive 450-mile span. Recognizing the need for collaborative regional planning and strategic development, the Northeast Corridor Commission (the Commission) is at the forefront of efforts to stabilize the corridor, increase accessibility to underserved communities, and lay the foundation for future growth.

In pursuing sustainable and high-performing rail transit, especially in the face of climate change, the Commission has undertaken extensive planning for over 300 service improvements and maintenance construction projects over the next 15 years. The challenge lies in quantifying and spatially locating the impacts of these projects to inform investment prioritization and workforce development decisions. Furthermore, the Commission needs to concisely communicate this complex data to municipalities and the public.

The Northeast Corridor
The Northeast Corridor. Image courtesy of the Northeast Corridor Commission.

Achieving the CONNECT NEC 2037 Plan

Building on the ambitious CONNECT NEC 2035 plan released in July 2021, the Commission engaged Karp Strategies in collaboration with project lead Arup to support the first update, CONNECT NEC 2037. This update will guide capital investment decisions through rigorous research and analysis of travel demand and economic impacts.

Karp Strategies, taking the lead on the economic impact analysis, was tasked with quantifying the estimated value and earnings of construction jobs generated by these rail infrastructure projects. In addition, Karp Strategies brings a holistic planning lens to ground these economic impacts in social analysis, emphasizing how the planned investments support long-term resiliency, economic development, and job creation, particularly in traditionally underserved communities.

Economic Impact Assessment and Lightcast Analysis in Action

Karp Strategies utilized Lightcast, an advanced input-output model, for this complex economic analysis. Lightcast's multiregional impact analysis capacity is able to capture intricate relationships between industries and regions. This tool is useful, as Karp Strategies’ approach goes beyond merely quantifying direct, indirect, and induced jobs and spending, resulting in a more comprehensive understanding of the broader economic consequences of investment projects.

Along with the direct improvements to rail operations and terminal connectivity, the ongoing investments in the NEC will trigger substantial regional and local benefits. Karp Strategies followed a multi-level approach to gather data and quantify the economic ripple effects of NEC investments. While understanding job and spending data is critical to evaluating NEC projects, the public also wants to understand how these investments will impact communities and respond to long-term climate conditions. Our analysis went beyond the conventional job and economic impact projections in order to emphasize how communities across the corridor will benefit from improved transit times, increased accessibility for disadvantaged communities, resilient infrastructure, and environmental justice considerations. 

The final CONNECT NEC 2037 represents the collective effort of the Arup Team, NEC staff, and corridor partners. Using Karp Strategies’ economic data, the report effectively communicates the operational, economic, and social benefits of the C37 plan to policymakers, elected leaders, and the public. The report also incorporates a comprehensive analysis conducted by the Arup team, presented visually through illustrative infographics and diagrams. 

You can read the full CONNECT NEC 2037 plan here.

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