The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is a rapidly growing group of individuals, cities and corporations calling for the development of fast, frequent and dependable trains linking the entire Midwest. Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association presented the association’s annual update to the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects on March 8, 2011.The goal is a network of 220 mph trains linking the Midwest, putting more than 25 million people in more than 20 metro areas within 3 hours of Chicago.
If the goal of CMAP, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, is to plan for the seven county region around northwest Illinois than the idea behind the Midwest HSR Assoc. is to link the larger 8 state Midwest region into a powerful economic unit.
Imagine a call from a client in St. Louis first thing in the morning. What you really want to be able to do is get there and handle the problem. Right now your only real choice is an expensive flight to St. Louis that may or may not get you there, depending on the schedule. Now imagine you could take a train to St. Louis in two hours at a projected cost of $46 each way, take care of business and be back in time for dinner. That is what High Speed Rail can deliver.
This will not happen overnight; the first proposed demonstration line would not come on line until 2020, linking Chicago with Champaign. This system will require new dedicated tracks; it is a construction project at the scale of the Interstate Highway System.
The first bullet train was in Japan, connecting Tokyo with Osaka in 1964. Since then Asia and Europe have embraced the bullet train and built thousands of miles of track. Spain, comparable in size to the Midwest, is spending 120 billion to bring the entire country within 3 hours of Madrid.
The U.S. has been talking about high speed rail for decades. So why doesn’t America have even one bullet train line? Lobbyists. The lobbyists for the oil companies, the car manufacturers, the asphalt industry…the list is endless. Instead of seeing the benefits of what a modern high speed rail network can do for regional economies and the overall economic health of the nation, these industries are only focused on their own bottom line. Re-surfacing our nation’s roads and highways and keeping people car dependant is big business backed by powerful high priced lobbyists. We have even seen republican governors turn down federal funds dedicated to starting high speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Florida.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has called for superfast trains between Chicago and Champaign (what could be the first leg of this line). The very wide and straight Champaign-Chicago railroad right-of-way offers a unique opportunity to build a demonstration segment quickly, perhaps before California. The line is projected to create 40,000 direct jobs and grow economies along the line up to 3 percent annually. It would also decrease our dependence on foreign oil and lead to a net reduction of CO2 emissions by 200 million pounds per year.
If interested in seeing high speed rail become a reality please visit the Make It Happen page at the Midwest High Speed Rail Website and send letters to your elected officials. There is also an option to donate funds to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.