Pamplin Media Group – Quick-Warner, Wilson: High-speed train accelerates past congestion to bright economic future

Brittany Quick-Warner is President and CEO of the Eugene Region Chamber of Commerce. Keith Wilson is President and CEO of TITAN Freight Systems in Portland, and a member of the advisory board of the US High Speed ​​Rail Association.


Keith WilsonSince 1993, congestion in the Portland area has increased by 252%, with the average resident now spending 89 hours a year in traffic. Meanwhile, in the Eugene and Salem areas, the time spent in congestion has increased by more than 150%.

As we get back to normal, it will only get worse. Oh, and it’s bad for business and the climate, too.

It doesn’t have to be like this.

With federal leadership and investment, high-speed rail could reverse our congestion crisis, while creating millions of good jobs and decarbonizing much of our transportation network. Sadly, President Biden’s $ 2 trillion U.S. jobs plan provides just $ 20 billion high-speed rail projects could claim – 1%. Even if the $ 20 billion went to high-speed rail, that wouldn’t be enough to fund one big new line.

Biden’s plan includes hundreds of billions to electrify our cars, fix potholes, and make our bridges safer – all the investments needed. Yet without an equally strong investment in high-speed rail, these investments will exacerbate our congestion problems. Now is the time for Washington DC to move beyond the 1950s approach to transportation planning.

Due to the continued dominance of the fly-and-drive status quo, America is one of the last industrialized countries not to use high-speed rail.

This oversight has led us to endless traffic jams and put our nation at a competitive disadvantage. Meanwhile, China has built 22,000 miles of state-of-the-art high-speed trains over the past 14 years, creating a whole new export industry. By 2028, China is expected to surpass America as the world’s largest economy. That same year, they are expected to operate 40,000 miles of high-speed trains.

The Chinese have understood that the high-speed train offers an exceptional alternative mode of transport. A set of lanes can efficiently transport 20,000 people per hour, the equivalent of a six-lane highway, but at 250 miles per hour, four times the speed of a car, and without congestion, hassle or delays.

Imagine if our transportation system was so quick and easy to navigate that taking a car or plane was a choice, not a necessity. High-speed rail adds balance to the transport mix, reducing pressure on our overcrowded highways and tracks, reducing congestion and delays for the entire network.

The high-speed train has an unmatched safety record. Japan, with the world’s first high-speed rail network, has transported millions of people in 50 years without a single fatality. In comparison, as many as 40,000 Americans are killed each year in traffic accidents on our roads.

Imagine the transformative impact of a high-speed rail line connecting Eugene to Vancouver, British Columbia. A Portland salesperson could prepare for an important customer meeting in Seattle with dedicated wifi and ample workspace, while hovering over the notorious congestion on Interstate 5 and arriving in just an hour.

At a recent high-speed train hearing, Congressman Peter DeFazio said: “If I could count on a train ride of less than two hours and on time from Eugene to Portland, I wouldn’t. Would never take that road again or drive on I-5. ”

The high-speed train would reduce that trip to 35 minutes, eliminating the need for millions of intercity car trips in this corridor each year.

Oregon residents who work in high-priced Eugene or Portland struggling to find accommodation, with a short 15-minute train ride, might find affordable housing options in Albany, Salem and Longview and across dozens of adjacent communities. High-speed rail would reverse decades of divestment in our small towns and rural communities that have been deprived of economic opportunities far from our urban centers.

The Washington State Department of Transportation estimated that the addition of the high-speed train from Portland to Vancouver, B.C. would generate $ 355 billion in additional regional economic activity and, $ 42 billion to be built. , would be the low cost solution to our regional congestion crisis. In contrast, the ministry estimated that adding one lane in each direction of I-5 along that same route would cost $ 108 billion. They also point out that travel times would not be improved.

With these advantages and so many more, we agree with the recent statement by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, “I don’t know why people in other countries should have better train service or more investment. on high-speed trains than Americans. ”

So if you find yourself stuck in traffic on your way home this weekend or in the coming weeks as your life returns to a new normal, there might be a better solution.

Brittany Quick-Warner is President and CEO of the Eugene Region Chamber of Commerce. Keith Wilson is President and CEO of TITAN Freight Systems in Portland, and a member of the advisory board of the US High Speed ​​Rail Association.


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