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The fast track to high-speed rail

Jamie Barras

High-speed rail trains in Beijing

Today, President Obama announced the recipients of $8 billion in high-speed rail grants allocated to 31 states along 13 major rail corridors. The Midwest Region was awarded almost $2.6 billion for four major corridors: Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City, Minneapolis-Milwaukee-Chicago, Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati, and Detroit-Chicago.

The Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City corridor received $1.13 billion to overhaul tracks, signal systems, and existing stations. This 570-mile upgrade will result in the region’s first high-speed passenger rail service, allowing trains traveling at 110 mph to transport passengers between Chicago and St. Louis in just four hours – 30 percent faster than current service. These much-needed dollars will drastically improve metropolitan Chicago’s passenger and freight rail network, helping to alleviate bottlenecks choking our region. A portion of the money will lay the groundwork for more high-speed rail service in the future by funding complementary planning and design studies.

Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is conducting an economic impact analysis to ensure these investments simultaneously spark new economic development and community revitalization around proposed stations. The analysis is measuring the effect additional passengers traveling to this region via high-speed rail will have on job creation, ridership, and future tax and transit revenues. Complete results from this study will be released in the spring.

MPC also is advocating for federal reforms to leverage high-speed rail investments and support additional transportation funding.

A new “Jobs Bill,” touted by President Obama in his State of the Union address, would maximize job creation and lay the foundation for a smart, clean, safe and effective infrastructure system in America.  This Senate bill would create immediate jobs for 2010 and invest more than $35 billion in transit, highway, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

The Transportation Objectives Act would establish national transportation objectives and performance targets, such as improving economic competitiveness, connectivity, safety, energy efficiency, and environmental protection, as well as encouraging transit-oriented (mixed-income and mixed-use) development communities. MPC is working with the national Transportation for America coalition and local partners to shape this critical piece of legislation.

Complete details about these advocacy efforts are available in Plan for Prosperity: 2010 Policy Objectives, and Advancing Livability Principles: Federal Investment Reform Lessons from the Chicagoland Experience.

 From Tampa to Orlando, Boston to Washington D.C., and Los Angeles to San Francisco, this first wave of investments in a national high-speed rail system will help put America back on the map as a global competitor in innovation and infrastructure. With today’s announcement, the Obama administration laid the foundation for reducing congestion, improving the economy, and enhancing air quality by improving the nation’s freight system.

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For 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area’s toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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