This year marks 25 years of high-speed rail in Spain.
The country’s first high-speed line, a link from the central capital of Madrid to the southern region of Andalucía, opened for service in April 1992. The 300-mile line passes through rugged, mountainous terrain, requiring 31 bridges (totaling more than six miles) and 17 tunnels (nearly 10 miles worth).
Last week, Chicago officials gave a sneak peek at the City’s 10-year plan for its international airport, “O’Hare 21.” The plan, currently awaiting federal approval, would replace the old, domestic-only Terminal 2 with an international terminal. It would also expand Terminal 1, and convert the current international terminal, number 5, to a domestic terminal. Unfortunately, the plan appears to fall short on improving access to the airport.
Earlier this month, India broke ground on its first high-speed line. The 316-mile route will connect the country's largest city and economic hub, Mumbai, with Ahmedabad, an important industrial center in the heart of the country. (For reference, that's about the same distance at Chicago to Cincinnati.) Trains are expected to travel at speeds of up to 220 mph, reducing today's 7-hour trip to just over 2 hours.
We recently attended the latest gathering of the Midwest Regional Rail Plan. We’re optimistic about this FRA-led process because it’s evaluating opportunities for high-speed and conventional rail across the Midwest in a comprehensive network. Too often, planning studies focus narrowly on a single corridor or geography, missing the cumulative effects that an integrated, connected network offers.
Last week Amtrak announced it would be overhauling the seating and other interior details of its original Amfleet coaches. While it’s good to see Amtrak investing in keeping this aging equipment functional and comfortable, this is a reminder of how badly we need new, modern passenger coaches in the Midwest and around the country.
So often when we talk about high-speed rail, we assume we’re only connecting big cities. Chicago to Minneapolis. New York to Washington. Los Angeles to San Francisco.
High-speed rail brings big benefits to major cities, but a lot of us in the Midwest don’t live in big cities. We live in Madison, Fort Wayne, Springfield. These are places that are too small to be blessed by high-speed rail, right?
We saw a lot of great things on our trip to Italy. The food was great. The scenery was inspiring. You won't be surprised, though, to learn that one of my favorite parts was spending a few minutes at the train station inside Rome's airport.
Earlier this year, the FRA began a Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study. This effort is exciting because it breaks free of the narrow route-based or corridor-based planning models we're used to. Instead, this study is taking a big-picture, network-based approach. With Chicago as a hub, this study is evaluating the thousands of variations of a network that will connect the entire Midwest.
Following in the footsteps of the House, a Senate panel has rejected the Trump administration's proposal to cut long-distance Amtrak service. Not only does the budget approved by the Senate Appropriations transportation subcommittee include full funding for Amtrak's national network, it includes $550 million for the TIGER grant program, which the House proposed eliminating. Subcommittee chair Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, was overheard calling the White House's proposal "incredibly irresponsible."
When President Trump released his proposed 2018 budget earlier this year, it cut all funding for long-distance Amtrak trains. It also proposed killing programs like Core Capacity, New Starts and CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Grants), which maintain and improve our passenger rail infrastucture.