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PORTSIDE  September 2010, Week 4

PORTSIDE September 2010, Week 4

Subject:

How a Faster Passenger Rail Network Could Speed Travel and Boost the Economy

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 26 Sep 2010 23:10:07 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (245 lines)

Connecting the Midwest
How a Faster Passenger Rail Network
Could Speed Travel and Boost the Economy
Illinois PIRG Education Fund
Elizabeth Ridlington and Rob Kerth, Frontier Group
Brian Imus, Illinois PIRG Education Fund
Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Foundation
Fall 2010
http://cdn.publicinterestnetwork.org/assets/53068ecb05a9f4637a658e3c99c05067/Connecting-the-Midwest-vIL-web.pdf

[moderator: the entire report is available in pdf at the
above url]

Executive Summary

In building a 21st century economy, the Midwest is
hampered by an outdated transportation system. Congested
airports and crammed highways hinder travel around the
region. As the main source of our dependence on oil, our
transportation system leaves us vulnerable to oil price
spikes and pollution. Intercity passenger rail in the
Midwest can be part of the solution. The Midwestern
states have put forward a bold vision for efficient,
rapid passenger rail service linking the entire region.
The federal government is allocating more than $2.7
billion in funds from the American Reinvestment and
Recovery Act to bring that vision closer to reality with
rail projects in six Midwestern states.

Completing the Midwest's regional rail system should be
a priority for addressing many of the region's toughest
transportation challenges, while delivering badly needed
economic activity. Passenger rail can help address the
Midwest's toughest transportation challenges.

Passenger rail curbs congestion on highways and in
airports. Traffic congestion costs major Midwest
metropolitan areas more than $10 billion each year in
lost economic output. Construction of a regional rail
network for the Midwest is projected to avoid 1.3
million plane trips and 5.1 million car trips per year
by 2020, curbing congestion. Also, an improved passenger
rail system will run on a significantly improved freight
rail network. This means additional cost savings and
lower congestion for some portion of freight shipments
that can travel more efficiently by rail.

Passenger rail reduces our dependence on oil. On
average, an Amtrak passenger uses 30 percent less energy
per mile than a car passenger. Compared to airplanes,
European high-speed trains consume approximately one-
third the amount of fuel per passenger. Newer
locomotives are becoming even more efficient, and
switching rail lines from diesel to electric power can
curb America's oil dependence even further. Connecting
the Midwest

Passenger rail can boost the Midwest's economy by making
travel easier between cities, fostering regional
business connections. Constructing a Midwestern
passenger rail system will create more than 57,000
permanent jobs in the Midwest, and also support 15,200
jobs during the 10 years that the system would be under
construction. Developing the system would give
Midwestern railroad equipment manufacturers an initial
foothold in a growing worldwide industry.

Passenger rail can provide convenient, efficient travel,
where riders can work, relax, enjoy greater legroom, and
travel directly from downtown to downtown, even in
inclement weather-avoiding the need to drive to outlying
airports, wait in long security lines, or jostle for
parking in congested center cities.

Passenger rail protects the environment. A study
undertaken by the Center for Clean Air Policy and the
Center for Neighborhood Technology found that a
Midwestern high speed rail system would prevent 188,000
tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year by diverting
passengers from car and plane travel, equal to the
annual emissions of 34,000 cars. Savings could be higher
if the benefits of improved freight and conventional
rail networks are included.

A Midwestern rail network would reach all of the
region's major centers of population and employment-
touching the lives of most residents of the region.

Region-wide, 58 percent of Midwesterners- 35 million
people-would have access to a high-speed rail station
within 15 miles of their homes. A total of 17 million
people would live within five miles of a station.

More than one out of every four jobs in the region would
be within five miles of a high-speed rail station,
meaning that high-speed rail could play a critical role
in facilitating the connectivity that can improve the
region's economy.

Every Midwestern state stands to gain from the
construction of high- speed rail.

Illinois would be the hub of the new system, with two
out of every three jobs in the state located within 15
miles of a high-speed rail stop. Improvements on the
Chicago-St. Louis line are projected to draw 1.2 million
passengers in the first year of service.

In Missouri, St. Louis would benefit from a faster
connection to Chicago and improved rail service between
St. Louis and Kansas City. Improved service would
provide a convenient alternative to travel along I-70.

Iowa would have restored service to Iowa City and Des
Moines and an 80 mph line extending across the state.
The Iowa City-Chicago line is projected to reduce car
travel by 345,000 trips per year, saving 1.5 million
gallons of gasoline.

In Wisconsin, the popular route from Chicago to
Milwaukee would be extended to Madison, connecting the
state's two largest cities. With a completed regional
high speed rail network, most major Wisconsin cities and
economic centers would be connected to Chicago, the Twin
Cities and the entire Great Lakes region by rail.

Minnesota would see new high-speed service to the Twin
Cities. Traveling to Chicago on the new line would be at
least an hour faster than driving.

In Michigan, upgraded service would provide a faster
connection for economically battered cities like Detroit
and Flint to Chicago, creating new possibilities for
economic development and recovery.

In Indiana, Indianapolis would sit directly between
Cincinnati and Chicago on a new high-speed line, with
multiple trains leaving daily in both directions.

In Ohio, the "3 Cs"-Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati-
are not currently connected by a rail line. A regional
rail network could include a high-speed line across the
state connecting the three cities, and linking Cleveland
and Cincinnati to Chicago. Connecting the Midwest Recent
investments in passenger rail have already paid off in
higher ridership.

Faster service along the Chicago to Detroit corridor has
led to a 24 percent increase in ridership over the past
five years, despite the region's severe economic
downturn.

Similarly, increases in frequency of service along the
Chicago to St. Louis line led to a 56 percent increase
in ridership.

Americans are hungry for access to more and better rail
service. A 2009 survey found that if the cost and travel
time were equal, 54 percent of Americans would prefer to
travel to cities in their region by high-speed rail,
with only 33 percent preferring car travel and 13
percent preferring air travel. Of Americans who had
actually ridden high-speed rail, an overwhelming 82
percent preferred it to air travel. Building the
infrastructure to ease congestion will require a large
investment whether we upgrade railroads or expand roads
and airports.

Illinois expects to spend $1.1 billion to upgrade rail
service on the roughly 200-mile route from Dwight,
Illinois, to Alton, Illinois, or $5.5 million per mile.
A highway expansion project can cost from less than $10
million to more than $70 million per mile of additional
lanes.

Adding airport capacity, especially at the region's
busiest airports, is extremely expensive. For example,
reconfiguring runways and adding one terminal at
Chicago's O'Hare Airport will cost $6.6 billion.
Building 16 new gates at the Minneapolis-St. Paul
Airport is expected to cost $400 million. The Midwest
should develop a highspeed rail network that fits
together with other modes of transportation to knit the
region together. To that end, Midwestern states should:

Continue to back a regional vision. High-speed rail can
only deliver its promise to the region if state and
federal agencies fully commit to developing a functional
interstate rail network. Each Midwestern state should
recognize that its own transportation network will
realize its full value only if coordinated with
developments in other states, and push for federal
investment across the region. So far, the Midwestern
states have coordinated their efforts more successfully
than states in other regions, and the region's governors
should maintain their leadership in this regard.

Maximize "bang for the buck" by investing in lines with
the greatest ridership potential, using incremental
improvements in passenger rail to help lay the
groundwork for faster highspeed service, and allocating
transit funds to achieve the greatest overall
environmental and economic benefit. States should
advocate for federal transportation policy to treat all
modes of transportation equally rather than prioritizing
highway spending, so that states can invest money where
it will do most good.

Balance private investment with public safeguards. The
Midwest contains a large share of the nation's freight
rail infrastructure and traffic, which presents both
opportunities and potential conflicts for a passenger
rail system. Midwestern states should work with freight
rail companies where possible, but above all ensure that
passenger trains will be given Executive Summary
priority on tracks-either through enforceable agreements
or public ownership of infrastructure.

Encourage domestic manufacturing to create jobs and
develop a new industry as the rail system is developed.
Midwestern states are home to dozens of manufacturing
facilities that make rail-related equipment. Those
facilities would hire more employees and produce more if
they were assured of a local market for their products.

Measure progress against a vision. Progress on a
regional rail system should be measured against specific
short-term and long-term goals, including building at
least one Midwest rail line to operate at speeds of 220
miles per hour by 2020.

_____________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

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