By Steven Meyer
The governors-elect of Wisconsin and Ohio recently announced that they would not accept federal grants for developing high speed rail in their states. As a result, the U.S. Department of Transportation has redirected over $364,000 to Indiana that will be spent on track upgrades and rail congestion reduction in Northwest Indiana. While some of our Midwestern neighbors are refusing federal money, others, like Illinois, are creating jobs and providing real transportation options by investing in passenger rail. Indiana needs to go beyond this first, modest project in Northwest Indiana and invest money in the environmental studies necessary so that our state will be in a position to receive even larger grants in the future.
The federal government has already invested over $10 billion in high speed rail and has announced its goal of laying over 4,000 miles of new track in the next 6 years. Much of the track being laid right now in Vermont and Maine was manufactured in Columbia City, Indiana. Not only will high speed rail offer a choice for clean, safe, and speedy transportation, it will generate high paying manufacturing and service jobs for Hoosiers.
Building a comprehensive high speed rail system will require the kind of vision, dedication, and investment that it took to create our highway system in the 1950′s. Unlike our reluctant neighbors, though, Indiana should get on board with transportation solutions that will carry us through the 21st Century.