PI Original Adam Doster Tuesday November 25th, 2008, 5:26pm

High-Speed Rail Coming Down The Tracks

The Supertrain could be coming to a station near you. Following the excellent news last month that Congress doubled the amount of federal funding earmarked for Amtrak, Sens. John Kerry and Arlen Specter unveiled another bill last week that would build upon the Amtrak ...

The Supertrain could be coming to a station near you. Following the excellent news last month that Congress doubled the amount of federal funding earmarked for Amtrak, Sens. John Kerry and Arlen Specter unveiled another bill last week that would build upon the Amtrak reauthorization and fund high-speed rail lines across the country.

Titled the High-Speed Rail for America Act of 2008, the bill would provide money for tax-exempt bonds to finance long-stalled high-speed rail projects. “A first-rate rail system,” Kerry said in a statement, “would protect our environment, save families time and money, reduce our dependency on foreign oil, and help get our economy moving again.”

If the bill passes, Illinois riders could benefit handsomely. The legislation sets aside $5.4 billion over a six-year period for rail infrastructure bonds that can be used on 10 rail corridors deemed in need of repair by the Federal Rail Administration. The Midwest represents one such corridor, with Chicago as its hub. Plans to revamp the region’s stretch of rail (dubbed the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative) were drawn up years ago. All that’s needed is the capital, which this bill would help provide.

As Ryan Avent writes, the timing of Kerry and Specter’s initiative is especially poignant in light of the Rust Belt’s financial struggles and the auto executives’ impending 500-mile carpool to Washington:

High-speed rail could cut travel time between Detroit and Washington from nine hours to three — just a smidge longer than the train ride from Washington to New York, from downtown to downtown. And you’d never have to take your shoes off, unless you wanted to. High-speed rail would also cut a five-hour drive from Detroit to Chicago to just over an hour. Detroit to Cleveland? Just under and hour. Detroit to Pittsburgh? About an hour and a half.

High-speed rail would, in other words, turn Rust Belt distances into northeast corridor distances, while also shifting the Rust Belt closer to the northeast corridor. It would increase the return to doing business in every city in the region. It would be the Erie Canal and the original railroads on steroids.

(H/T Praire State Blue)

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