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

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, September 20th, 2010


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In building a 21st century economy, the Midwest is hampered by an outdated transportation system.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 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.
  • 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.

Midwest HSR

Download full report (PDF): Connecting the Midwest

About Illinois PIRG
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