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Report: High-Speed Rail Will Boost Economy

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Advocates for high-speed rail service say a midwest rail network could create 58,000 jobs.

Meghan Hess, with the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan, tells WWJ it could put a lot of people to work, reviving our region’s manufacturing base.

“Improved passenger rail service in the region would really tap into Michigan’s manufacturing base, to supply the equipment for high-speed rail. So, it’s really a great opportunity for cities in Michigan to get at the forefront of this movement, and really use our manufacturing, you know, prowess and power in the state to become the supplier,” Hess said.

PIRGIM’s report to Congress said high-speed rail will reduce highway and airport congestion, reduce dependence on oil, and protect the environment. PIRGIM said high-speed trains would reduce traffic congestion, which costs major midwest metropolitan areas more than $10 billion annually in lost economic output.

Hess said the midwest doesn’t have the infrastructure, just yet, to support true “bullet trains” like those in Japan or Europe — but service at speeds up 110 miles-per-hour would reduce travel times.

According to the report, a high-speed rail connection between downtown Detroit and Chicago, featuring ten trains per day, would reduce travel time between the cities to 3 hours and 46 minutes-faster than driving, and competitive with air travel.

PIRGIM said improved passenger rail service in Michigan is already making an impact, allowing Amtrak to increase speeds along parts of the Detroit-Chicago corridor. Amtrak ridership on Michigan trains increased 24% between 2004 and 2009.

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.

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(Copyright 2010 WWJ Radio.  All Rights Reserved.)

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