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Indy/Chicago high-speed rail should be priority

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Imagine a trip to Chicago without toll roads and traffic, and making it in less than the three-plus hours it usually takes. All the while, you're reading a book or falling asleep to an iPod. No, you don't have to be a kid again taking a road trip with your parents. High-speed rail would make that fantasy come true.

Currently there is no easy, direct way to get from Indy to Chicago, and most decry the expense of creating one. But a new study by America 2050 confirms that high-speed rail between the two cities would be a good investment.

America 2050, an nonprofit group that works to meet infrastructure, economic development and environmental challenges, found that the Indy-Chicago line has the second largest ridership potential and ranked only behind — albeit far behind — Chicago-Milwaukee in the Great Lakes region.

Each line, or corridor, received a score based on different factors, including ridership potential, regional air markets and population density. The Indy-Chicago route scored 17.38, placing it in the second-tier nationwide compared to corridors like Chicago-Milwaukee which scored 19.38 or New York-Washington D.C., which scored 20.15.

The purpose of the study was to better inform federal, state and local investment in high-speed rail.

“The long term success of the new federal High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program is dependent on investing in corridors with the potential to attract ridership and realize rail’s benefits, establishing a positive track record for the program as a sound investment in our national economy,” the report said.

Fortunately for Indianapolis, it seems to be on the right track for high-speed rail.

Currently, though, you would be silly — or without a car — to take the train from Indy to Chicago. The average time it takes is around 4 hours 50 minutes. Even the most contentious person would struggle to justify the extra time — nearly two hours — it would take to get there on train, there's no denying that. But with high-speed rail that time is nearly halved. It would take only 2 hours 41 minutes on average to get from Indy to Chicago. This would actually be more of a benefit than a burden — the way rail travel should be — and a good reason for people to ditch their cars in favor of rail.

But not only would the Chicago-Indy line make it a lot easier, there are other benefits. For one, it would take lots of cars off the road, a good thing for the environment and congestion, and not a burden for the traveler. Plus, building rail has less of an impact on land than does highway construction.

In general, high-speed rail in the Midwest would have a positive economic impact, as well. One study [PDF] found that for every dollar spent on high-speed rail one dollar and eighty cents is returned in benefits, not to mention the 4,500-plus permanent jobs that would come to Indiana. A good investment if you ask me.


For more on America 2050 and proposed high-speed rail develepment, visit America2050.org


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