High-speed rail line needs solid plan

By Editorial Board

Several U.S. states will get upgraded passenger train systems, President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address on Jan. 27.  These states will receive part of an $8 billion economic stimulus grant to fund the high-speed train lines. The initiative is aimed toward creating jobs and efficient transportation throughout the nation.

Illinois was awarded approximately $1.2 billion of the grant money and will use it to fund a rail line between Chicago and St. Louis. The system could eventually expand to include lines to Milwaukee and Madison, Wis. and Detroit.  Although Illinois initially asked for $4.5 billion, our state did receive a fair amount of the money, considering how much was distributed.

However, the project will likely cost much more than $1.2 billion to be fully complete and operational. The burden of the remaining funding will fall on the state and possibly some private investors. This isn’t the best strategy for our budget-challenged state, especially in light of the fact that a financial deficit caused the Chicago Transit Authority to lessen

its service.

To avoid a disaster akin to the “Bridge to Nowhere,” the project should be well-planned, both logistically and financially. It should be fully thought out before construction begins to make sure the idea is sound.

If executed efficiently, the project will create jobs and allow for convenient travel options. Also, people will likely be motivated to take to the rails more often, which reduces the number of cars on roads and promotes environmental sustainability.

Materials used to renovate the tracks are planned to come from inside the United States. For instance, steel or iron may come from a Chicago-based plant. This would benefit more people than if materials were imported from another country.

A high-speed rail system is an important investment for our nation. Various countries in Europe and Asia have efficient train systems and the United States should work to be recognized on the same international level.