AASHTO Report: States Ramping Up Action on Passenger Rail

Posted by Content Coordinator on Thursday, January 27th, 2011


Building Passenger Rail: A Game-Changing National Enterprise

State departments of transportation have long recognized that modern passenger rail service can provide the traveling public with genuine transportation  choices, relieving highway and airport congestion in a safe, environmentally responsible way. This is already a reality in the densely populated northeast corridor between Washington, DC, and Boston, Massachusetts, which carried more than 10 million passengers last year.

But train travel is also growing elsewhere in the nation. Almost 14 million people rode on state-supported rail lines outside of the northeast corridor in the 12 months between October 2009 and September 2010. And most of these trains have seen big percentage increases in ridership. For example, ridership on North Carolina’s Piedmont, which travels between Raleigh and Charlotte, rose 46 percent. The Empire line in upstate New York saw a 30 percent increase.  The new Lynchburg, Virginia, route drew almost 150 percent more passengers and revenue than anticipated. On the West Coast, the Cascades line from Portland to Seattle grew 13 percent.

Clearly, more people are taking the train for convenience, greater mobility, and reliability. But that’s not the only story. From Moline, Illinois, to Brunswick, Maine, the revival of passenger rail is sparking significant economic development just when it is desperately needed. American manufacturing is stepping up to make sure rail infrastructure projects are built with American-made products, which, in turn, support an entire supply chain of American companies and their employees, maximizing the economic benefit of these infrastructure investments.

As examples,

• Nor-Trak, headquartered in Decatur, Illinois, is making the castings used to hold rail to ties along the Chicago–St. Louis Corridor.
• Nippon Sharyo, the largest manufacturer of high-speed rail trains in Japan, is building a new manufacturing plant in Rochelle, Illinois, in hopes of building high-speed trains for corridors throughout the country.
• Work to rebuild two locomotives and passenger coaches for the North Carolina Department of Transportation helped keep the American Motive Power of Dansville, New York, in business. At that time, their locomotives were the only units on the shop floor.

Just the potential for better passenger rail is spurring economic development across the country. In Normal, Illinois, more than $200 million in private funds has been invested in anticipation of high-speed rail, including the construction of a new hotel and conference center. Uptown Normal is a neighborhood that surrounds the Bloomington- Normal stop on the Chicago–St. Louis corridor. Despite retail vacancies across the country, this pedestrian-friendly neighborhood is bustling with economic activity.

LL Bean, headquartered in Freeport, Maine, is also gearing up for more business when the expanded Downeaster rail line stops in its town. “LL Bean is very excited that the Downeaster is coming to Freeport. The train will serve the local residents as well as visitors. Freeport is a destination for shopping, outdoor activities, and as a gateway to all Maine has to offer. The train will truly enhance the visitor experience, as well as Freeport as a community,” said Carolyn Beem, manager of public affairs for the giant clothing company.

Major Milestones 2

Major Milestones 2

Download full report (PDF): States Ramping Up Action On Passenger Rail

About the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
“The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is the voice for transportation and catalyst for organizational and technical excellence…AASHTO advocates transportation-related policies and provides technical services to support states in their efforts to efficiently and safely move people and goods.”

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