From a freight railroad viewpoint, needs for rail yards are evolving over time, as some rail yards become more important while others become obsolete. This presents needs for reconfiguring rail yards and transfer facilities to ensure a competitive freight transportation system, and it also presents opportunities for redeveloping abandoned rail yards for residential or commercial uses.
To assess those issues, the City of Chicago embarked on a study to evaluate options for redeveloping its unused rail yards and consolidating existing rail yards. Its goals were to increase the efficiency of freight movement in the City, improve the city's economic development opportunities, reduce unnecessary truck incursion into neighborhoods, and support redevelopment of urban neighborhoods.
To address these issues, a team led by Reebie Associates with Economic Development Research Group conducted a study of the business and economic consequences of alternatives for redeveloping freight yards, shifting patterns of truck movements and rail loading facilities within the City. EDR Group was responsible for economic impact modeling (using the REMI model), building upon business surveys to trace how business locations and operating costs would be affected by alternative scenarios for reconfiguring truck and rail facilities. The study also examined how the economy of Chicago would be affected by commercial redevelopment of rail yards.
The economic modeling by EDR Group study found that alternatives for reconfiguring the spatial pattern of rail freigtht activity could cause a loss or gain of up to 15,000 jobs, representing a swing of 1-2% growth or decline in the regional economy. The study concluded that moving rail facilities out of the City would lead to outmigration of some shippers, and that a regional rail freight strategy promoting "rationalization" and reinvestment of rail yards within the City would provide the greatest economic benefit.