PAPA and Econ departments team up on CBA

SIUE’s College of Arts and Sciences Departments of Public Administration – Policy Analysis (PAPA) and Economics recently put the final touches on a cost benefit analysis that will hopefully increase employment opportunities, recreational opportunities, and decrease emissions in the region, according to T. R. Carr, professor of PAPA.

T.R. Carr, professor of public administration and policy analysis.

“This demonstrates the capacity of the Public Administration and the Economic Departments to support economic growth projects within our region. We were sought out to do this particular project and it recognizes the expertise of [SIUE],” said Carr. “The real benefit for us is that it demonstrates the capacity of this university to do some rather complex analysis to support economic growth in the region. They came to us to do this as opposed to going to another university.”

The cost-benefit analysis (CBA) was part of a $14 million grant proposal submitted to the US Department of Transportation.

“The TIGER [Transportation Investment for Growth and Economic Recovery] grant is a US Department of Transportation grant for infrastructure improvement to improve the economic competitiveness of the region. This particular project we did as a public service for St. Clair County. The project sum of $14 million will go along the Mississippi River,” said Carr. “A benefit-cost analysis is a central requirement for the TIGER grants. We were asked to do this by West St. Clair County. We spent the last couple of weeks working on this particular project.”

The grant proposes ways to improve intermodal transportation in the region. With St. Louis playing a large role for travelers, bikers, and train, truck and river shippers, Carr stated that investing in the region could have a very positive effect on the region’s employment.

Cargill, Inc. has a grain terminal on Front Street in East St. Louis and Bunge North America is in the process of building a grain terminal just south of the new Mississippi Rver bridge, according to Carr. The addition of another grain terminal in the region is important for US farmers wanting to get their crops to a global market. Carr stated that barges that will travel on the new Panama Canal are much larger than the old barges. He stated that this will make the port of New Orleans increasingly important to these farmers.

The CBA addressed a number of issues, according to Carr.

“What we looked, since they are including the bike trail, we were looking at health benefits, recreational benefits. It includes access to the Mississippi River overlook, the Gateway Geyser, and Memorial Park in East St. Louis,” said Carr. “Beyond that, we looked at time-saving for the shippers–time to market is really critical. So, if we can reduce the delay time for trucks attempting to ship, that’s important. Another thing we looked at is emissions. Without this project, trucks will spend more time idling, dumping out CO2, particulate matter, and things like that. So, the project has a significant environmental impact by reducing the amount of emissions. So, we’re improving recreation, we’re reducing emissions, we’re improving traffic time, we’re improving the economic competitiveness of this region.”

The changes in the infrastructure will hopefully increase the amount of tourist traffic in the region as well.

“Traffic projections, currently, right now, are about 40,00 people per year visit the Mississippi River Overlook and the Gateway Geyser and the Memorial park. Once the new Mississippi River Bridge is finished and once Route 4 relocated, the Park Service estimates that about 200 to 250,000 people a year will visit that park. So, this road structure becomes really critical to facilitate access by visitors to the East St. Louis area.  So, it’s really important to that because it provides that kind of access,” said Carr. “If this project gets approved, you can ride bikes from SIUE all the way down to riverfront, across the bridge to the Gateway Arch. It really just ties everything together.”

Carr stated that the economic growth will drive the region in a positive direction.

“Front Street itself, right now is currently deteriorated. There’s not a whole lot of development along that area. But, once you improve the roads, curbs, gutters–there is some intermittent flooding down there–then, it will open up to more economic development,”said Carr. “There’s one 37.5 acre parcel of land that’s been on the market for such a long time because you can’t get to it. There’s no reason to believe that with this project, that parcel becomes much more marketable. Another industry can move in providing employment opportunities for Metro East. That’s the main thing. It’s a foundation for economic growth, for jobs in this region.

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