Experience Shows High-Speed Rail Can Boost Economy, Reduce Traffic

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Illinois PIRG Education Fund

Drawing lessons from other countries, a new study from Illinois PIRG Education Fund shows that high-speed rail can boost our economy, save energy, curb pollution and provide a popular alternative to congested roads and airports.

The report, A Track Record of Success: High-Speed Rail Around the World and Its Promise for America, details a number of examples from around the world that make a variety of cases for high-speed rail. Some of the benefits include:

    * Jobs: about 8,000 people were involved in the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link between the tunnel and London.

    * Development opportunities near stations: the amount of office space in the area around the rail station in the city of Lyon, France has increased by 43%.

    * Economic growth: in Germany, the counties surrounding the towns of Limburg and Montabauer experienced a 2.7% increase in their gross domestic product as a result of the increased access to markets provided by the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed rail line.

    * Reduced road congestion: high-speed rail service between Madrid and Seville reduced the share of car travel between the two cities from 60% to 34%.

    * Reduced air travel: even in the relatively slow rail service in the U.S. Northeastern Corridor, the rail corridor accounts for 65% of the air-rail market between NY and Washington, DC.

    * Reduced oil dependence: a typical Monday morning business trip between London and Paris via high-speed rail uses approximately a third less energy as a car or plane trip.

“This report reinforces our view that building a high-speed rail network is a prudent and cost effective use of America’s resources over the long-term,” said Glen Bottoms of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.

As the Midwest network’s hub, Illinois would have better access to rail than any other state. Nearly 70% of jobs in Illinois would be located within 15 miles of a high speed rail station. In Illinois, high-speed rail has picked up steam behind major grants from the federal government. In January, Illinois received $1.1 billion to upgrade service on the Dwight to Alton section of the Chicago to St. Louis line to provide 110 mph service, and last month the state received another $3.7 million to replace two railway bridges on Amtrak’s Chicago to Milwaukee corridor.

“Now that the election is behind us, it’s time to get serious about high-speed rail. There is no such thing as a Republican or a Democratic rail track,” said Emily Mueller, Illinois PIRG Education Fund Field Organizer, “Our leaders from both parties should support long-term investment in high-speed rail for the benefits it will bring to Illinois.”