New high-speed train may connect Midwest

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Business interests and environmentalists have endorsed a campaign for new high-speed and conventional railroad passenger service in the Midwest.
The nine-state proposal, with Chicago as the hub of the network, was outlined Tuesday during a news conference in which spokesmen said mass transit can help the economy while reducing automotive traffic pollution.
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration are financing a $668,000 feasibility study.
Congressional budget-cutters have affected the subsidies available to Amtrak but the government remains interested in funding high-speed rail projects, said Howard Learner, director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
Wisconsin is leading the nine-state Midwest Rail Initiative as “the next logical step to make sure we retain train service” in the region, said Charles Thompson, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Several states have considered high-speed service linking Chicago with Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit and St. Paul.
A Chicago-based network of high-speed trains to Milwaukee, St. Louis and Detroit would create 15,260 construction jobs and 2,090 operating jobs, a study for Lerner’s Chicago group by University of Illinois researchers states.
It shows “good transportation policy is good for the economy and good for the environment,” said Susan Mudd of Milwaukee, program director of Citizens for a Better Environment.
The business community also sees economic benefits, Robert Milbourne, executive director of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, said.
A new Chicago-Milwaukee system would cost $471 million to $702 million to build and $19 million to $21.7 million a year to operate, an environmentalists’ summary for the state Department of Transportation states.
According to the study, it would generate 4,740 construction jobs and 530 operating jobs.