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Connect St. Louis and Chicago With True High-Speed Rail

Science & Tech  (tags: science, society, tech, technology, safety, research, performance, NewTechnology, energy, environment )

- 1880 days ago -
The St. Louis-Chicago corridor took another step toward high-speed rail recently when the Federal Railroad Administration approved the plan to double-track the existing Union Pacific mainline.

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JL A (282)
Friday January 25, 2013, 6:00 pm

Connect St. Louis and Chicago with true high-speed rail

Amtrak, California team up on high-speed rail

Associated Press

Amtrak's Lincoln Service train passes Illinois cornfields as it speeds through a crossing en route to Chicago in 2007. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

January 23, 2013 12:00 am • by Richard Harnish

Amtrak, California join to push throttle on high-speed rail

WASHINGTON — California high-speed rail officials allied themselves with Amtrak on Thursday, forming a politically attuned partnership designe… Read more

The St. Louis-Chicago corridor took another step toward high-speed rail recently when the Federal Railroad Administration approved the plan to double-track the existing Union Pacific mainline.

This plan does not go far enough — literally. It doesn’t go fast enough, either. The current plan proposes to add tracks to the existing freight line to reduce the St. Louis to Chicago travel time to four hours just nine times a day. It doesn’t link to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

We must do better.

True high-speed trains, using proven technology, could slash the St. Louis to the Chicago Loop trip to just 90 minutes, with hourly departures. If existing rail infrastructure were blended with long segments of new high-speed construction, similar to what is being done in California, trains could easily beat the 2.5-hour travel time needed to truly change today’s journey into a commute. The same trains could stop at both downtown and Lambert, creating new opportunities for more people to take advantage of the reduced costs and improved access created by fast trains.

In truth, we’re not just talking about a train. We’re talking about an economic powerhouse. A truly modern rail system, beginning with the proposed new Chicago/St. Louis line, can become the driver of economic development throughout the nation’s heartland and beyond. From an environmental standpoint it can be a huge “win,” diminishing our dependence on fossil fuels and helping to reduce air and auto emissions. Above all, this line can become the anchor of a modern transport web linking the big cities of the Midwest, and incubating new enterprises along its path.

The St. Louis-Chicago project will span a big stretch of the nation’s economic engine — the heartland of steel production, Midwest coal production, varied manufacturing and agricultural.

We need high-speed rail to support the new economic drivers of today’s Midwest: commerce, information technology, medical research and high-tech manufacturing. The high-speed rail project itself will be a generator of new jobs, breathing new energy into surrounding communities — especially if we take the time to engage the leaders from Missouri, Illinois and the federal transportation authorities in meaningful planning. The plan should demonstrate a great and immediate benefit to intermediate cities between Chicago and St. Louis, and eventually become the hub of a web that includes Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland and other cities in need of this economic kick-start.

Speed is a real issue. To be a successful venture, high-speed rail must offer a clear alternative to both driving and flying. It’s got to be affordable, convenient, and substantially faster than driving. It’s got to offer amenities for a new century — such as a supportive working environment with Wi-Fi throughout. This means developing an advanced infrastructure surrounding the high-speed lines and stations, one that can attract a new ridership and make the public investment pay off for decades to come.

A project of this size would require a combined public/private investment, with federal, state and local governments providing proportionate shares of the cost. This is far from the first time such a mixed investment project will be undertaken, but it will take time to put together the pieces. That is why it is critical to get started now.

And we can take the first concrete step right now. Soon, the Illinois Department of Transportation will begin designing a new railroad bridge over the Mississippi. Let’s make sure that it is designed to carry the true high-speed trains that we desperately need.

Richard Harnish is executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

Terry V (30)
Friday January 25, 2013, 6:32 pm
It will be OUTDATED before it's started :(

JL A (282)
Friday January 25, 2013, 8:13 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Terry because you have done so within the last week.

Bob hardly here P (394)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 1:44 pm

JL A (282)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 1:45 pm
You are welcome Bob.

Julie F (68)
Saturday January 26, 2013, 5:27 pm
I would like to see it.
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