It’s good to have friends in high places. The Windy City is privileged to have the support of the man holding the highest office in the land, President Obama, to back a hub-and spoke high speed transit network with Chicago as its epicenter. The wheel sprawls in all directions, covering most of the major cities of the Midwest.
Obama is not the only proponent of the high speed rail in the Midwest. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is firmly behind the proposal. His conviction comes from a fact-finding mission to Spain he undertook this past winter. The Governor traveled on the Spanish high speed rail, the AVE (Alta Velocidad Española), and came back a believer of the system.
Governor Doyle was not only impressed by the comfort and speed of his journey, he saw the potential for jobs to be created in the manufacturing, maintenance and operation of an American high speed rail network running through his state into Chicago and beyond.
The Midwest has historically been known as America’s industrial heartland. Much of it now is classified as the rust belt. Cities of towns that have had production closed or outsourced abroad because of lower labor costs. Detroit, which will be connected to this network, has fallen on very hard times as auto manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy and laid off thousands of workers.
High speed rail production is an opportunity to have a Renaissance in Midwestern manufacturing. Plants that built cars before being shuttered could be converted to making the trains that will be needed to service the lines. This conversion is not that difficult to make. As America became active in World War II, car factories became tank factories overnight. With proper investment in manufacturing plants plus research and development, America could become a player in the lucrative passenger train building business now dominated by Europeans. The creation of this industry would employ thousands of people on a permanent basis.
The fact that high speed rail is expanding across the globe gets little notice in the media. It is often repeated that the US is generations behind Japan and Western Europe in this regard. This is true, but even more troubling is that countries in the developing world are moving forward with plans at a much faster rate than the American government. China has an aggressive high speed rail strategy. South American countries, notably Argentina and Brazil, have high speed rail aspirations as do Eastern European countries like Poland and Russia. Further delays in high speed rail planning and construction will leave American rail infrastructure on par with Africa and parts of Southeast Asia.
The Chicago transit corridor will not only benefit Midwestern travelers, but those in need of employment. Reviewing the full benefits of a high speed rail network, it is quite plausible that the Midwest has the most to gain out of the project. A little known fact is that 50% of the US population lives within 500 miles of central Ohio. That distance is the optimal range for high speed trains, due to its time advantage over planes. Population density and job potential make high speed trains an ideal fit for the Midwest.
This is the 8th of a 13-part series on high speed rail in the USA. Read previous articles:
- High Speed Rail – 12 Corridors to be Stimulated
- High Speed Rail at 90 mph?! ARRA & the Northeast Corridor
- California High Speed Rail – Who will pay for $40 billion?!
- Planning High Speed Rail Line For 17 Years: The Pacific Northwest
- (Anti-)High Speed Rail: Republicans & the Gulf Coast Corridor
- Airlines & Oil Barons in Fear of High Speed Rail: The South Central Corridor
- High Speed Rail Line Gets Federal Funding: Los Angeles to Las Vegas
[photo credit: harshilshah100]