Midwest Rail Upgrades Speed Ahead, Creating Divide

Increased speeds for passenger rail lines in the Midwest bring along economic baggage, but can the pros outweigh the cons? As higher-speed rail, and expected economic growth, come to Illinois and Michigan, neighboring states see pitfalls.
July 31, 2012, 10am PDT | Emily Williams
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Plans to upgrade Amtrak service in Illinois and Michigan to provide the first triple-digit speeds outside the Northeast are "cementing a divide in the region over passenger rail," reports Mark Peters.

An estimated $2.1 billion, mostly from the federal government, is buying track upgrades, new railcars and locomotives in Illinois and Michigan. And by 2016, trains will travel at 110 mph between Chicago and Detroit and Chicago and St. Louis, shaving an hour off both routes.

These rail investments have stirred up heated debate over their various economic impacts. In rejecting federal funds, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, both Republicans, argued that the rail projects would "saddle their states with new annual costs." Increased operating subsidies may be required by the states should more daily trips be added.

Local businesses, however, are seeking to profit off the rail investment. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, also a Republican, claims that these rail improvements are "a way to create jobs, raise property values and stem the flight of young professionals."

Thanks to Daniel Lippman

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Published on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal
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