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High-speed rail helps build our future

May 24, 2011
By Sen. Carl Levin , Daily Press

WASHINGTON - Michigan recently got a second helping of good news in our drive to make our state more competitive in the 21st century global economy.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to Michigan to announce that Michigan will receive nearly $200 million to bring high-speed passenger rail service to the state. The money will help pay for track improvements, more powerful locomotives, new passenger cars and other improvements necessary to create a safe, comfortable high-speed link between the Detroit area and Chicago. I was excited to join Secretary LaHood for the announcement, and I'm even more excited about what it means for Michigan.

The high-speed link will give business travelers and vacationers another efficient transportation option along a route already busy with auto and air traffic. It will connect our state with a growing Midwest network that will move travelers more affordably and with more energy efficiency than ever before. And Michigan will benefit immediately from the jobs created by construction projects along the line.

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Sen. Carl Levin

Specifically, the money will improve rail lines between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, a key part of the planned high-speed network. Some of the funding will also help engineer a new rail and bus station in Ann Arbor.

There are lots of people who made the announcement possible. Among them is Secretary LaHood, with whom Michigan's congressional delegation has worked on high speed rail, on growing our domestic auto industry and on other issues important to our state.

Our state Department of Transportation did a lot of hard work in putting together a plan that won federal approval, as did local officials along the route.

Gov. Rick Snyder also helped bring this good news to Michigan. Our state got the opportunity to win this funding because officials in Florida turned down a similar grant. Whatever Florida's reasons for doing so, Gov. Snyder didn't turn down the funding and deserves thanks.

Back in October, I wrote about another funding announcement, more than $160 million for the Michigan-to-Chicago high-speed link and other rail projects in the state. Then, as now, I believe these projects are an important part of our economic future.

Creation of a high-speed rail network would move our country toward the same competitive transportation system that many of our global competitors now enjoy. Such a system would create jobs both as we build it, with American workers building the trains and rails, and when it is completed, by promoting tourism and commerce and making travel between cities more affordable and convenient. And it would reduce our dependence on foreign oil because rail service can move passengers more efficiently than other modes of transportation.

Previous generations of Michiganians built the roads and the tracks and the ports and the factories that helped make our state the arsenal of democracy and the engine of middle-class prosperity.

It falls to us to build for future generations. Success for them means moving people and goods faster, more cheaply and with more energy efficiency than ever before.

High-speed rail is an important piece of that. If our competitors in China and Japan and Europe can succeed with high-speed rail, there is no reason we can't too.

I'm confident this project is going to pay off for the people of Michigan and for the country. This project and others like it will help create jobs, grow our state's economy and secure a better future for the generations to come.

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Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan.



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