Report highlights benefits of improving railwaysPublished 10:35am Thursday, February 11, 2010
A new research report by the Ann Arbor-based Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) highlights the benefits of improving railways in Michigan and the United States.
President Obama awarded $40 million in high-speed rail funds last month to Michigan. The funding could bring high-speed rails to Niles’ Amtrak station.
It’s part of a plan that will send $8 billion to 31 states to help build and plan for high-speed rails under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Detroit to Chicago corridor, which runs through Niles, will receive $244 million.
According to the PIRGIM report, the full plan for the Michigan line would lower travel time between Detroit and Chicago to 3 hours and 46 minutes, making it faster than driving or flying.
Michigan also has applied for funds to make improvements that would increase train travel speeds up to 110 miles per hour.
Upon hearing the news two weeks ago, City Administrator Terry Eull said he was not sure exactly how the funding will affect Niles but thinks it will be a good thing.
“Anytime you get a shot in the arm to bring a big city closer to you, it’s a positive,” he said. “Believe it or not, there are people from the Michiana area who go to Chicago every day and now may be able to do it in half the time.”
He also said a high-speed rail may bring more residents to Niles.
Kara Rumsey, a PIRGIM advocate, believes the funding is one step toward what could be a huge network of high-speed rails.
“This project might one day be part of a national network of high speed rail on par with the bullet trains of Europe and Asia, but it is going to take a long-term commitment from all levels of government to plan and fund the system,” Rumsey said. “Without such a commitment, this recent momentum could be lost. We simply cannot afford a false start on high speed rail.”
The study points out many benefits of a high-speed rail system in the U.S.:
• The Center for Clean Air Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology estimate that completion of a national high-speed rail network would reduce car travel by 29 million trips and air travel by nearly 500,000 flights annually.
• Passenger rail reduces dependence on oil. On average, an Amtrak passenger uses 23 percent less energy per mile than an airplane passenger and 40 percent less than a car passenger.
• Passenger rail could boost America’s economy. The task of building the nation’s high-speed passenger rail network is estimated to create up to 1.6 million construction jobs.
• The Center for Clean Air Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology estimate that a national high-speed rail network would reduce global warming pollution by 6 billion pounds.
To read the full PIRGIM report visit: www.pirgim.org/report.