Study Touts Benefits Of High-Speed Rail

CHICAGO (CBS) — Although Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida have rejected federal high-speed rail money, Illinois and 34 other states are fighting over it.

A new study, funded by the manufacturing giant Siemens, sees plenty of advantages and believes support could grow quickly.

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“After we’re through with this summer, paying for gas for our cars, there will be a lot more people who are interested in high-speed rail,” predicted Steve Fitzroy of consultant EDR Group, one of the study’s co-authors.

Just as location is important in selling real estate, destination and speed are important when it comes to creating a Midwestern high-speed rail network, the study concludes.

The study’s authors conclude that a high-speed rail link with O’Hare International Airport is a must — and believe that such a link could replace many of the short-hop feeder flights that exist today.

“Bringing everybody to Chicago and having an airport connection means that these (distant) headquarters, these R&D centers and these business and finance centers are connected to the rest of the world,” Fitzroy said.

Armon Kick of Siemens said 220-mile-an-hour trains would make day trips for business possible to and from Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati and St. Louis, as well as college towns, such as Champaign-Urbana and West Lafayette.

“We need a cultural change,” said study co-author Paula Pienton of the transportation consultant AECOM. “Our current modes of transportation are not going to support our future population.”

The Siemens study focuses on four corridors: Chicago-Madison-Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago-Champaign-Springfield-St. Louis, Chicago-Lafayette-Indianapolis-Cincinnati and Chicago-Ft. Wayne-Detroit-Cleveland. The corridors are roughly the same as those identified in a 2009 study by the French national rail company, SNCF. The Siemens study concludes that all could be linked by high-speed trains requiring less than three hours to make the trip — easily competitive with airline travel, once waiting time at airports is factored in.

In addition, Pienton said, the high-speed trains being contemplated will have none of the impediments to computer use that cuts into “productive time” for business travelers.

“When you get on the train, you can start to work,” she said. “When you’re in an airport, you can open your computer, work for 20 minutes, and then you have to move onto the airplane. You can’t start your computer till you reach a certain altitude, and for these short flights, you have a very short window of productive time.”

She predicts that the ability to work without interruption, when combined with higher speeds, will lead to what she termed a “cultural shift” away from airplanes.

The Obama administration has pledged to spend $52 billion to finance construction of high-speed and higher-speed routes that would reach 80 percent of the nation’s population. House Republicans have tried to erect roadblocks.

SNCF estimated the cost of such a system in 2009 dollars at $68.5 billion, more than the entire Obama administration initiative. The Siemens study estimates the cost at $84 billion.

Pienton said that economic growth traceable to high-speed rail would justify the cost.

Service at speeds of up to 125 miles an hour does not require separation from freight traffic and road crossings, but true high-speed trains do.

Several potential routes are under consideration for a 220-mile-an-hour Chicago-St. Louis line, with the most likely scenario following Canadian National Ry.’s former Illinois Central R.R. right-of-way to Champaign, and Union Pacific’s former Chicago & Alton route between Springfield and St. Louis. Design engineers believe that the space exists on both rights-of-way to accommodate the additional tracks that would be needed.

  • Amtrak has NEVER made profit

    Conventions are allready pulling out of McCormic place due to high cost and moving to Vegas.

    If high speed train is such a great idea and manufacturing giant Siemens sees plenty of advantages,
    have Siemens PAY for the high speed rail!

    Personally I drive up to Milwaukee airport as they have 5 dollar a day parking, 15 minute security lines and airfair tickets near HALF price over Ohare.
    Sad part is I just took a trip from Milwaukee to Chicago to California for 201 round trip. SAME plane from Chicago to California was 356

  • Pablo

    Everyone complains about how the American government rebuilds countries all over the world (usually after blowing them up and sacrificing American lives) but when they want to build something here, something that would create long-term jobs, raise the level of safety in travel, reduce our need for gas and oil, support green initiatives, and help some long-abandoned communities, all they do is complain about THAT. Build the trains.

  • Jim

    The trains make sense, but not going to Detroit! They need to go to places where people actually want to travel to/from.

  • Parker

    Not to Detroit, Cleveland, or St. Louis….who goes to these cities for anything. Lots of crime and murders…no thanks.

  • Pablo

    To the people saying the train shouldn’t go places…A) by giving people an easy, safe, and inexpensive way to get there it might improve the situation of the community. B) You do know that these trains go both ways, right? It could bring tourists FROM those cities. C) Don’t be hateful. hundreds of thousands of people live in those communities, and the last time I checked, those are our fellow Americans. Quit being part of the problem and try to be part of the solution. D) Chicago had more murders than Detroit, Cleveland, or St. Louis.

  • Roderick Llewellyn

    Dear “Amtrak has NEVER made profit”: neither has the nation’s highway system, nor its air infrastructure. The general taxpayers pay for all of those. After all, there are many companies involved in road construction. If roadways were so profitable, “Mr. Amtrak”, to use your logic, why wouldn’t THEY simply pay for them as you demand Siemans do? The answer to both questions is the same. They are not profitable, but both are beneficial to society. We similarly subsidize water lines, sewers, local roads, local buses, schools, courts, etc. You don’t demand that any of those make money. Yet somehow, when it comes to rail, anti-rail fanatics like yourself repeatedly trot out this tired argument that of all transport infrastructure, rail and ONLY rail must make money or you deem it BAD. You’re sucking down taxpayer-subsidized services – dare we call them “welfare”? – just like everybody else. The real question is not who pays for it. The real question is what are the benefits versus the costs, which also should include external effects such as pollution. Especially when you factor in these effects, rail comes out looking very good indeed. European countries know this and that’s why their citizens enjoy the huge advantages of a comprehensive rail system. The Chinese are experimenting with 300 mph trains. And what are we discussing in America? Tax cuts! Who pays! We’re toast, and it’s people like you who are toasting us.

    • Drew

      High speed rail: JUST GET ‘ER DONE! SUPPORT AMTRAK!!!!!!!


      What dream world are you living in? Your complete statement can be summed up in your own words,”what are the benefits versus the cost”. Do the math and you will see why you’re dream world has its flaws.What we all should be discussing in America is how are we going to save this country from going bankrupt,and becoming a third world country. If the wasteful pork spending doesn’t end,we will all have no choice but to move to China and work in their non union factories,and eat their rice,while riding on their 300 mph trains that we financed through our debt. Put that in your toast for history to reflect on.

  • Stephen

    And how much of the rolling stock, electronics, etc will this FOREIGN company make? As an aside, the much-touted Chinese trains, even with their much larger user base, require a state subsidy and DO NOT cover their operating costs let alone the sunk costs of building them in the first place.

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