New Report: High Speed Rail Part of Solution

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Gary Kalman

MoPIRG Foundation

ST. LOUIS, MO – A new report puts clear numbers and a clear vision on how high-speed rail will boost the Midwest economy, reduce highway and airport congestion, reduce dependence on oil, and protect the environment.  The report was released by MoPIRG today with Frank Steeves from Emerson Electric Co., Susan Stauder from the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, and representatives for Congressman Clay and congressman Carnahan.

“As the saying goes, ‘you are either part of the problem, or part of the solution,” said Matt Erickson, MoPIRG program associate.  “High-speed rail is a part of the solution – boosting our economy and creating jobs, modernizing our transportation system and helping to solve our nation’s oil dependency, worsening congestion and pollution.  High-speed rail gets us moving, in the right direction.” 

The new report, “Connecting the Midwest,” analyzes the potential of high-speed rail to the Midwest, and looks at benefits specific to eight Midwestern states, including Missouri. 

Key findings of the report include:

·         A completed Midwest high-speed rail network will create 57,000 permanent jobs and support 15,200 jobs during the ten years that it would take to construct the project.

·         Traffic congestions costs major Midwest metropolitan areas more than $10 billion annually in lost economic output.  Midwest high-speed rail will reduce air travel by 1.3 million trips and car travel by 5.1 million trips per year by 2020, curbing congestion. 

·         Upgrading service between St. Louis and Chicago would shorten travel to less than 4 hours.  This improved trip time would attract 1.2 million passengers in the first year of service.

·         An Amtrak passenger uses 30% less energy per passenger mile than a passenger car, reducing dependence on oil. 

·         High-speed rail will give consumer more transportation options.  Region-wide in the Midwest, 58% of Midwesterners, or 35 million people, would live within 15 miles of a high-speed rail station.  More than one out of every four jobs in the region would be within five miles of a station.  51% of Missourians would live within 15 miles of a station, and 58% of the state’s workforce would have a station within 15 miles of their workplace.  51% of Missourian would live within 15 miles of a station, and 58% of the states workforce would have a station within 15 miles of their workplace. 

·         The system would prevent 188,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year by replacing less efficient car and plane travel. The amount is equal to the annual emissions of 34,000 cars.  

 “High-speed rail is a smart investment for today. Businesses will invest where they know the routes are coming, which means public leaders need to stand up and make their commitment clear.” Said Susan Stauder, Vice president for infrastructure and public policy for the St. Louis Regional Chamber and growth Association. 

In January, the Obama administration announced that 31 states will receive a portion of $8 billion in funding to build and plan for high-speed rail under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The Midwest received funds totaling $2.7 billion for rail projects in six states.  $1.1 billion has been allocated to upgrade the St. Louis to Chicago line, and $31 million has been allocated for improvements for the route from St. Louis to Kansas City along the I-70 corridor. 

“I strongly support the upgrading of existing rail lines across Missouri and the establishment of a high-speed rail corridor between St. Louis and Chicago.  These initiatives will create thousands of new jobs, promote energy efficiency and bring new economic development to many communities.” Said Congressman William Lacy Clay, MO-01

The report urges Congress to invest adequate resources in intercity rail and set performance standards to fully realize rail’s potential. It calls on the President and Congress to articulate a national vision for high-speed rail similar to the vision outlined by President Eisenhower for the Federal Highway system.

“With a long history of bi-partisan support, high-speed rail should be embraced for what it is – a critical step towards modernizing our transportation system, creating jobs and growing our economy, and reducing our dependence on oil,” concluded Matt Erickson, MoPIRG program associate.