EAST BRONX — Consider the Metro-North a rolling stimulus package, Bronx officials said Tuesday as they touted a study detailing the economic benefits of routing the railway through the East Bronx.
A plan to build four Metro-North stations along the east side of the borough could create as many as 5,400 jobs, raise individual home values by more than $140,000 and add more than $1 billion to the Bronx economy, according to the study.
“This analysis shows just how great an impact this project will have in our borough,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., whose office co-wrote the report with that of state Sen. Jeff Klein, said in a statement.
“The benefits are clear and will be critical to launching The Bronx into the 21st century and beyond,” Klein added.
The long-sought rail expansion would send Metro-North trains up from Penn Station and down from Connecticut along existing tracks to new stations in four East Bronx neighborhoods: Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City.
In a series of public forums last fall, Diaz and MTA officials claimed the new train route would slash travel times, spur development, reduce pollution and make new job opportunities available to the roughly 160,000 residents near the proposed stations.
The new analysis, which is based on research by the American Public Transit Association, offers some data to back their claims.
Public transportation investments can trigger economic ripples that uplift the surrounding community, according to Mantill Williams, advocacy communications director for the APTA, a nonprofit research and lobbying group that was not involved in the Bronx analysis.
Building and operating new railways creates many jobs, Williams said. And as businesses spring up around the stations, more jobs materialize.
The cluster of businesses, parks and other amenities around the stations form “walkable neighborhoods” with easy access to mass transit — highly desirable areas to live, which inflate the value of surrounding real estate, Williams added.
This, in turn, lures more investors and businesses, which enjoy an average $32 million sales boost for every $10 million in transit spending, according to APTA figures.
“This is a place that’s going to be hot with economic activity,” Williams said of areas around heavily used public transportation.
The officials also noted that the Metro-North expansion would connect Bronxites to jobs beyond their immediate neighborhoods and cut down on commuting costs and air pollution.
But for all its purported benefits, the new rail route is not guaranteed.
The MTA must find about $800 million to build the new Bronx stations (in addition to two in Manhattan along another route), as well as space at Penn Station for the trains to operate.
Meanwhile, some Long Island lawmakers have objected to the plan, saying they don't want Metro-North lines to be allowed to use Penn Station, on the grounds that it would take over slots currently used by Long Island Rail Road trains.
For their part, Bronx officials continue to drum up public support for the plan and lobby the state for funding in hopes of completing the expansion by 2019.
“It is time for this long-held dream to become a reality,” Diaz said.