Posts Tagged ‘Economic Development’

Iowa DOT seeks applicants for rail funding program

Progressive Railroading

The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) is seeking applicants for a minimum of $3.25 million available in funding through the Rail Revolving Loan and Grant Program.

Applications will be accepted until Aug. 11 for eligible projects in two categories: targeted job creation and rail network improvement.

“Targeted job creation” projects would provide “immediate and direct job opportunities,” according to IDOT. Grant requests require a 50 percent local contribution and loan requests require a 20 percent local contribution toward overall rail project costs.


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Durbin, Kirk, Quinn Announce $186 Million for Chicago to St. Louis High Speed Rail

Funding rejected by Florida will improve Chicago to St. Louis route

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) joined Governor of Illinois Pat Quinn in announcing that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $186 million in high speed rail funding to finance track and other improvements on the Chicago to St. Louis corridor between Dwight and Joliet.  Earlier today, the Department of Transportation notified Congressional Appropriators that they have reprogrammed $400 million of the $2 billion in funding that was rejected by the governor of Florida.

“Illinois will be able to use this funding to upgrade an important segment of the Chicago to St. Louis corridor,” said Durbin, a Co-Chair and founding member of the Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus.  “Improvements to this route will improve on-time performance, increase travel speeds and create jobs that our state badly needs.

“This project will create nearly 6,000 direct and indirect jobs, decrease delays and improve performance,” U.S. Senator Mark Kirk said.  “High speed rail projects like this one will ensure that Illinois remains at the center of the nation’s infrastructure network, attracting more jobs and making us more economically competitive.”

“Today’s announcement is an important step toward faster trains and even better rail service on the route between Chicago and St. Louis, ultimately making Illinois the Midwest’s hub for high-speed rail,” Governor Quinn said. “We are committed to quickly turning federal investment in rail into jobs and economic development across the state. This latest award is another example of our ongoing efforts to lead the nation in development of high-speed rail.”

Illinois’s application for rejected Florida funding included two other high speed rail projects that are still eligible for funding.  The other projects requested are: A multi-state $806.8 million application for new train cars and locomotives equipment, including $262.8 million for new train cars to operate along several Illinois corridors and $1 million for preliminary engineering and environmental work on a new station in East St. Louis, Illinois.

Last month, Durbin and Kirk led a group of Illinois Congressional Delegation members in expressing support for Illinois’ application for the federal funding for high speed rail projects that was rejected by the governor of Florida.  In their letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, the members stressed the importance of the Chicago to St. Louis route as the backbone of the Midwest passenger rail system.  Members signing on to that letter included: Durbin, Kirk, Representatives Jerry Costello (D-IL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL).

“We believe Illinois offers the greatest opportunity for your Department to enhance mobility, reduce reliance on foreign oil, lessen congestion and provide steady employment in a region hard hit by job loss,” wrote the members.  “The Midwest rail system, with Chicago as its hub, could provide 3,000 miles of high speed rail service and serve 90 percent of the 60.3 million people living in its nine-state region.  A significant federal investment into this region will create a rail system that could carry nearly as much traffic as regional air service.”

One year ago, the entire Illinois Congressional delegation wrote to LaHood to communicate their belief that Illinois provides the best opportunity to invest in high speed rail.   Since then, the Department of Transportation has awarded over $1.4 billion in high speed rail funding to Illinois, including funding for the CREATE project, new rail service from Chicago to the Quad Cities and implementing 110 mph service on the Chicago to St. Louis  line.  Last December, Illinois received $42.3 million in high speed rail funding that was rejected by the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin.


Benefits of high-speed rail draw a crowd

Since the Department of Transportation announced the availability of an additional $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects last month, governors and members of Congress from both major parties have been clamoring for the opportunity to participate.

As of our Monday deadline, we received more than 90 applications from 24 states, the District of Columbia, and Amtrak.  The preliminary total of those requests is nearly $10 billion, more than four times what we have available. 

Why is demand for high-speed rail support so high? 

Because elected officials have seen the immediate benefits of jobs where rail work has already begun.  They’ve seen these jobs in Maine–where the Downeaster extension to Brunswick is under construction–and they’ve seen them in Illinois–where 96 miles of track are now being laid for the Chicago-St. Louis high-speed corridor. 


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Statement of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on High-Speed Rail

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued the following statement today regarding the $2.4 billion available for High-Speed Rail:

 “Today, we are another step closer to delivering an innovative, national transportation network that brings new jobs and economic opportunity to the American people. Since I announced the availability of an additional $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects, governors and members of Congress have been clamoring for the opportunity to participate. That’s because they know that high-speed rail will deliver tens of thousands of jobs, spur economic development across their communities and create additional options for their citizens as the country’s population grows. We have received more than 90 applications from 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak for projects in the Northeast Corridor, with preliminary requests totaling nearly $10 billion dollars. We are extremely pleased to see the bipartisan enthusiasm behind all of the requests to get into the high-speed rail business. Thanks to President Obama’s bold vision for a national high speed rail network, we will win the future for America.”

 Additional background:

Showing bi-partisan support for President Obama’s High-Speed Rail program, 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak (for projects in the Northeast Corridor) submitted just under $10 billion in funding requests. 


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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Makes $2.4 Billion Available for High-Speed Rail Projects Across America


WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he is making available approximately $2.4 billion, through a competitive process, to states eager to develop high-speed rail corridors across the United States.

“The Obama Administration’s bold high-speed rail plan will create jobs, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and spur economic development for years to come,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “States across the country have been banging down our door for the opportunity to receive additional high-speed rail dollars and to deliver all of its economic benefits to their citizens.”

President Obama’s vision is to connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail within the next 25 years. To put America on track towards that goal, the Obama Administration has proposed a six-year, $53 billion plan that will provide rail access to new communities; improve the reliability, speed and frequency of existing lines; and, where it makes economic sense, build new corridors where trains will travel at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

The Obama Administration’s investments in high-speed rail are also projected to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs in the United States. Jobs will be created both directly on manufacturing, construction and operation of rail lines, and indirectly, as the result of economic developments along rail corridors. A report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, projected that high-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs in cities and along rail corridors across the United States.

A one-hundred percent ‘Buy America’ requirement for high-speed rail projects also ensures that U.S. manufacturers and workers will receive the maximum economic benefits from this federal investment. And, in 2009, Secretary LaHood secured a commitment from 30 foreign and domestic rail manufacturers to employ American workers and locate or expand their base of operations in the U.S. if they are selected for high-speed-rail contracts.

A merit-driven process will be used to award the newly available high-speed rail dollars to projects that can deliver public and economic benefits quickly. A project’s ability to reduce energy consumption, improve the efficiency of a region’s overall transportation network, and generate sustained economic activity along the corridor are among the selection criteria. Applications for the additional high-speed rail money will be due on April 4, 2011.

Information about the Notice of Funding Availability can be found here:

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High-speed corridor across state is touted

STL Today

You may have heard the legend about how St. Louis missed the boat — actually, the train — in becoming a pre-eminent hub of U.S. railroad activity back in the 19th century.

Chicago seized that crown instead, and some say the rest is history.

Now a retired university teacher and Missouri native suggests that Missouri promote a mix of highway and rail investment between St. Louis and Kansas City, essentially creating an urban corridor to spawn economic development between the state’s two largest cities.


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High-speed rail will accelerate Rochester’s growth


As Rochester continues to grow as an innovative and thriving city, we attract leading experts in numerous professional fields.

While growing and expanding professionally, it is vital that we continue to develop our infrastructure in order to encourage travel and attract visitors by producing a convenient and accessible mode of transportation. Rochester is such a vibrant community with so much to offer, and high-speed rail will allow more Minnesotans and people from around the country and world to see this great community.

Connecting the major hubs of Minnesota is just what the state needs for economic development. Looking towards the future of our community requires bold vision and leadership. I applaud those involved for creating and evolving the concept of connecting Rochester and the Twin Cities through high-speed rail.

Naura Anderson


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Group sees state as a rail stop

So, you’ve probably heard about the debate over plans to build a commuter rail line between Noblesville and Franklin.

But that isn’t the only debate going on about trains in Indiana.

Advocates of a high-speed rail network across the Midwest are gearing up to lobby Gov. Mitch Daniels and lawmakers to help them collect what could be hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers over several years. The money, along with more than $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars, would pay for three stretches of high-speed rail connecting Indiana to other states.

Hoosiers, on trains going about 110 mph, could travel from Indianapolis to Chicago in 2 hours and 41 minutes. Yes, that’s only about 20 minutes less than by car, but minus the traffic headaches and carbon emissions.

In theory, the rail lines would connect to destinations that include Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Madison, Wis.; St. Louis; Detroit; and Minneapolis.

That’s in theory, because two newly elected Republican governors are threatening to return millions of dollars in federal funds for rail, possibly disrupting a major part of the planned Midwest network linking 11 cities within 400 miles of Chicago.

Both Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio are riding a wave of voter opposition to higher taxes, government-backed services and causes supported by President Barack Obama, including high-speed rail.

And so the whole thing may be a long shot, rail advocates admit. But they see little choice but to try.

At stake are about 4,500 new jobs in Indiana, the environment and potentially billions of dollars in economic development.

“Indiana is a follower on high- speed rail,” Roger Sims, president of the Indiana High Speed Rail Association, said Friday during a summit of rail advocates at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Illinois, after applying for and getting $1.1 billion in federal stimulus dollars, is building a high-speed rail line right now. Meanwhile, Wisconsin and Michigan have applied for federal funds and have made their own investments in Amtrak passenger rail.

Indiana hasn’t done nearly that much.

The state invests little in Amtrak and has only one federally funded rail project in the works to clear up congestion on tracks in Northwest Indiana that passenger and freight trains share.

“What priority has Indiana put on high-speed rail?” asked Mark Dobson, president of the Warsaw-Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, drawing a cynical laugh from the audience at IUPUI. “Right. None. High-speed rail is not a priority in Indiana. It’s not on the radar, and we need it to be.”

In many ways, their efforts — and gripes — mirror those of mass-transit supporters in Central Indiana.

Indianapolis lags far behind other cities when it comes to bus service, too.

Under consideration is a $2.4 billion transit plan that triples the number of buses on the streets and adds commuter rail lines that would run north and south of Indianapolis.

The hope of those backing the plan, a quasi-governmental group called IndyConnect, is to persuade the General Assembly to put a referendum before voters on raising taxes to pay for the plan.

That has been met with lukewarm enthusiasm at best.

Daniels’ spokeswoman, Jane Jankowski, said the governor thinks transit, in general, is an issue worth exploring, but “you have to approach it with care.”

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Friday that he doesn’t know much about plans for high-speed rail but would be willing to listen.

He also said he would be willing to talk about a referendum for Central Indiana’s transit plan. But with the state of the economy and budget deficit, he’s concerned that the state has more pressing financial issues at the moment.

“Is this the priority that the public will go out on a referendum and vote for?” Kenley asked.

Both IndyConnect and the Indiana High Speed Rail Association are counting on support from private business leaders. The association is developing a plan that would show the economic benefits of high-speed rail.

The goal is to get enough support to raise money for three separate high-speed lines and rail cars.

One, at a cost of about $200 million to taxpayers, would connect lines from Chicago to Cleveland. Two others — from Chicago through Indianapolis to Cincinnati, and another along Lake Michigan from Chicago — don’t have a price tag yet.

“We really need businesses to be part of this equation,” Sims said, adding, “We haven’t reached a critical mass yet.”

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Guest column: Michigan lawmakers must act to secure $161 million for fast passenger rail service

Grand Rapids is on the verge of a passenger rail renaissance that promises to accelerate economic development, boost tourism, help the environment and better connect Grand Rapidians with the rest of the state and the nation.

In order to make that happen, state senators must approve legislation securing $161 million in federal rail funds to start building the fast passenger rail service we’ve talked about for so long.

Legislation currently before the state Senate — HB 6484 — would fund Michigan’s required state match for the federal high speed rail funding. If the state Senate fails to pass this bill Michigan will allow $161 million to slip away. That would hinder the possibility of high speed connections on the Chicago-Detroit corridor and miss the opportunity to strengthen passenger rail travel to Grand Rapids.

We must urge our state senators to pass this bill.

With the federal funding, Michigan will purchase and upgrade 135 miles of track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. Plans also include three new or improved train stations along the way.

Successful funding and completion of these projects means trains hitting 110 mph on more than 200 miles of track along southern Michigan’s corridor. This is a game-changing opportunity for our state. Republicans and Democrats, labor, local governments, chambers of commerce, and environmental groups are now on the same page.

Meanwhile, Grand Rapids is doing its part.

In early November, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) approved $850,000 for a new Amtrak station, which will help secure a $3.8 million federal grant. The new facility will transform the Amtrak service from Chicago into a more efficient system by alleviating congestion and speeding arrival into the station.

The DDA’s contribution is one way of showing commitment required by the Federal Rail Administration to be considered for federal funding. The state, as well, must also show political and financial support for existing passenger rail systems. That’s why it is so crucial that the state Senate approve this bill before the end of the year.

Demonstrating such enthusiasm also may help Michigan get funds that other states are turning down.

The newly elected governors of Wisconsin and Ohio are rejecting almost $1.3 billion in federal high speed rail grants. Those funds will be redistributed “in a professional way in places where the money can be well spent,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

There’s no reason that place can’t be Michigan. And no reason the State Senate shouldn’t enthusiastically say, “Yes” to Michigan and pass HB 6484.

Rick Chapla is vice president of business development at the Right Place, Inc. in Grand Rapids.

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Doyle: Wisconsin would regret nixing train

The Business Journal

Gov. Jim Doyle, who acceded to Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s request to “pause” a high-speed rail project between Milwaukee and Madison, said the people of Wisconsin would regret it if Walker follows through on his pledge to block the project.

Doyle, in remarks Tuesday at the Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, said he agreed to stop the state from rewarding contracts that would have allowed work to begin the week of the Nov. 2 election because it was the best thing to do for state government. Doyle said it would have been unfair to award contracts for contractors and suppliers and later yank them when Walker takes office.

Nevertheless, Doyle said he still believes the high-speed rail project would generate economic development and ultimately create needed new transportation links to Chicago and the Twin Cities. Doyle was the guest for “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” at MU Law School’s Eckstein Hall.

“Some day maybe we’ll see that happen — that the train goes from Chicago out to the Quad Cities (of Illinois and Iowa) and up to Minneapolis,” Doyle said. “And 20 years from now people will be saying why didn’t that train go through Wisconsin?”

Doyle wouldn’t comment on whether the project is dead, as Walker and his team say.

Doyle did say it is “fiction” that the $810 million in federal funding for the train project can be used for other projects in Wisconsin. He also said the argument against the train due to the “huge operating cost” is wrong as that cost would be about $750,000 per year in the state’s $3 billion annual transportation budget.

Doyle revealed no new information about his post-gubernatorial plans, saying he has remained focused on finishing the duties of his term in office. He said he’s looking seriously at the private sector after 34 years in public office.

“I’ll figure it out,” Doyle said of his next move. “I’d like to stay very active.”

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