Amtrak train rolls through the Midwest

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Howard A. Learner

Accelerating the Midwest Higher-Speed Rail Network 

A modern Midwest higher-speed rail passenger network will improve mobility, create jobs, pull together the regional economy, and reduce pollution because trains are more efficient per passenger than cars or planes.

ELPC Board member Ellen Craig and I have long discussed how effective public interest advocacy requires both persistence and strategy. We get the key pieces in place so that, when the planets line up in an especially favorable way, we can seize the opportunity for progress. That time has come for passenger rail. Carpe diem!
A modern Midwest higher-speed rail passenger network will improve mobility, create jobs, pull together the regional economy, and reduce pollution because trains are more efficient per passenger than cars or planes.

ELPC and our partners have been working to advance this vision for many years and making steady progress, but now the big pieces are really coming into play.

This Chicago-hubbed intercity regional network will connect Chicago, Cleveland, Des Moines, Detroit, Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Quad Cities, and St. Louis, as well as the mid-sized cities in-between, including Ann Arbor, Bloomington-Normal, Gary, Kalamazoo, Rochester, and Springfield. And, it will provide access for people in rural area hubs, such as Duluth and Traverse City, to the larger cities. We’ve made progress, but it’s too slow.

President Biden is now proposing an $80 billion federal investment to modernize passenger rail in the United States, and Amtrak has recently announced its forward-looking vision for Midwest regional passenger rail improvements and expansions.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to accelerate and transform the Midwest’s passenger rail system with modern, faster, and more comfortable, and convenient higher-speed rail.

This is a winner, as my ELPC colleague Deputy Director Kevin Brubaker explains well in his blog “It’s time for a Rail Revolution.” Investing in modern passenger rail will help provide low-carbon travel opportunities while creating quality and high-paying jobs.

ELPC is stepping up with business, labor, and civic partners to lobby our Congressional delegation to make sure that the Midwest gets its fair share of the federal passenger rail investments.

For example, ELPC brought together leaders of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Federation of Labor, Civic Committee of the Commercial Club (Chicago), Illinois AFL-CIO, and Illinois Chamber of Commerce on a joint letter supporting the Midwest high-speed rail network to the Illinois Congressional delegation and Committee leaderships. The joint letter explains that every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates an estimated 27,800-34,800 jobs. Trains bring people and economic vitality to urban centers, maximizing land use and supporting local businesses, without adding congestion to streets and highways. By connecting rural communities and neighboring towns to job centers, healthcare facilities, and universities across the Midwest, we can boost the economy and connect our communities to the resources they need.

This is the time to improve mobility and reduce climate pollution by modernizing the Midwest passenger rail system for all. Full speed ahead!

In other news from ELPC: 

Our latest poll of Northwest Ohio voters shows people have had enough with toxic algae contaminating Lake Erie. It’s time for Governor Mike DeWine to live up to his commitment to reduce manure and fertilizer pollution by 40% by 2025 to clean up Lake Erie. It’s time to clean up Lake Erie – no more excuses.

Thank you for your engagement and support.

Howard A. Learner,

President and Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

Howard Learner is an experienced attorney serving as the President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. He is responsible for ELPC’s overall strategic leadership, policy direction, and financial platform.

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