A Rail Renaissance

By Tim Maloney

An American passenger rail renaissance is underway.  In the Midwest, Illinois and Michigan are capitalizing on the opportunity to create jobs and provide new travel choices by investing in rail.  Illinois is on track to provide high-speed rail service from Chicago to St. Louis.  Republican Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan is enabling rail improvements from Detroit to Chicago, a section of which is already open to 110 mph service.   These states along with many others are taking advantage of a record amount of federal funding for passenger rail – $2.5 billion in the Midwest alone.   

Indiana is in a position to take part in this rail revival, but committed state leadership will be needed to make that happen. Amtrak trains already travel through Indiana along the Chicago to Cleveland and Chicago to Cincinnati corridors which are designated as high-speed rail corridors in the eight-state Midwest Regional Rail System (MWRRS).

States actively investing in passenger rail understand that rail creates jobs – an MWRRS study predicts over 57,000 new jobs will be created once the Midwest network is in place, including 4,500 in Indiana.  Several Indiana manufacturers are poised to benefit, including Steel Dynamics Rail Division in Columbia City, Progress Rail, a locomotive manufacturer in Muncie, and Nanshan Aluminum Technologies in Lafayette. 

Rail stations stimulate economic development in city and town centers.  Rail travel saves energy, improves air quality, and at 110 mph, is a more efficient mode for short to mid-distance intercity trips than airplanes or autos — with no traffic congestion or parking hassles. 

Help encourage state investment in faster, more efficient passenger trains.  Contact your state legislators and mayor, and urge them to support increased state investment in rail.

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