Make high-speed rail a priority

From CBC News

Windsor-West MP Brian Masse announced Monday he intends to pursue international high-speed rail service between Chicago and Quebec.

“I believe we can make it work all the way to Quebec City,” he said a news conference staged in front of the historic Spirit of Windsor steam engine No. 5588.

Masse wrote Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Denis Lebel “urging” the government “to move more decisively to make passenger rail investments a priority in Canada.”

Infrastructure exists

Masse said at the news conference existing infrastructure, such as rails and international tunnels beneath the Detroit River, exist to help jump start the program.

Masse called on Lebel to create a working group of stakeholders, similar to the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, to examine the possibility of high speed rail in the Chicago-to-Quebec corridor.

Masse said there are approximately 30 million people living in the corridor. He said the service “could be international in reputation.”

US on board

Kirk T. Steudle, director, Michigan Department of Transportation, is in favour of the proposed international high speed service.

“Reinstating this service is a priority for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) as part of an expanded seamless rail corridor providing passenger service from Chicago to Montreal,” Steudle wrote Masse in July.

In May 2011, the U.S. Federal Railroad Admistration announced Michigan will receive $200 million in federal high-speed rail grants to fund projects in the state.

Costs ‘few hundred million’

Masse admitted the cost of such a service is large; “a few hundred million,” he said. However, he also said he has no idea what kind of economic boost – if any – high speed rail would provide to the Windsor-Essex region.

Masse admitted the cost of high speed rail are often met with “sticker shock” but touted the environmental, cultural and economical advantages of such a system.

He noted Canada is the only country in the G8 to not have high-speed rail service despite having the fifth-largest rail network in the world.

“It’s like we quit working on rail 200 years ago,” Masse said.