Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Commentary on Illinois corridor

The suburban Chicago Daily Herald takes on the proposal to upgrade the St. Louis-Chicago line. Here is a highlight.

Let’s be clear. We like high-speed rail. The nation needs a well-planned, comprehensive network of truly high-speed trains as a significant component of its transportation system. But an expensive proposal that would trim the travel time of just one stretch of rail from five and a half hours to four hours seems hardly to suggest the start of a well-planned rail network.

Durbin called it a “dramatic improvement” to achieve rail speeds of 110 mph on the Chicago-to-St. Louis line, and that may well be. But the question is whether that “dramatic improvement” really achieves anything.

Alas, we suspect that Quinn’s tongue-in-cheek (we hope) justification for the line – “It’s important Chicago Cubs fans get to St. Louis quicker” – is more indicative of the kind of passenger growth this $500 million to $700 million investment would generate. In short, not much.

The federal stimulus bill, whose premise and goals we support, has been roundly criticized for excessive, meaningless government spending. Sadly, this first major project announced by the U.S. Senate’s second-ranking member and the state’s Democratic governor doesn’t do much to dispel that notion.

Let us give these high minded editorialists the benefit of the doubt. That will take a lot because they seen to support a project that would easily consume $20 billion while opposing upgrading existing rail at a cost of $700 million.

Thinking it over, and we should take the questions raised seriously, it is worth considering that Springfield is directly between two major cities and is a state capitol. Further, it is under-served by airlines. Better rail service for Springfield, Ill. makes good sense.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has studied economic questions. Now I want to admit that, to an unsophisticated mind like mine, all economic projections look like witchcraft, but that is all we have. It is all that any business gets. It is an educated guess that trains must hit 110mph to attract significant new ridership and produce higher fares.

And one more thing, Cubs fans need a little lovin’ sometimes.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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