The politics of wishful thinking: American cities and their commitment to the expressway

» If cities want to reduce automobile use and address climate change, the status quo simply isn’t good enough. In Chicago, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the lakeshore could turn into a step backwards.

For American cities, highways are a drug. They’re expensive to acquire. They devastate healthy tissue and arteries, replacing previous modes of nourishment with destructive ones. They force the rest of the body to adapt to their needs, and they inflict pain on those nearby.

After a massive slash-and-burn campaign that forced the demolition of hundreds of already inhabited, central-city neighborhoods from the 1950s through 1970s, few U.S. cities continue to build new expressways within built-up areas (though there are some depressing exceptions to that rule). Less funding from the federal government, combined with active opposition, seems to have done these projects in.

But the difficulties related to drug use don’t stop after the user has begun. Indeed,

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Illinois Moves Towards Rail Authority with Goal of Developing True High-Speed Service

» Passage by State Senate needs to be followed by House approval; Illinois would be third in the nation to specifically plan for very fast trains.

Considering the infusion of federal funds earlier this year for the state’s rail system to be only a first step towards a truly upgraded network, the Illinois State Senate last week almost unanimously approved a measure that would create a commission to evaluate the implementation of true high-speed rail service there. If passed as expected by the State House and signed by the Governor, bill SB 2571 would make Illinois the third in the country after California and Florida to actively promote the implementation of trains operating at over 150 mph.

In January, the U.S. Department of Transportation allocated $1.13 billion for upgrades to the St. Louis-Chicago mainline, enough to speed trains to 110 mph and connect the cities in just four hours.

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Competition for Rail Grants Heats Up as Illinois and Florida Articulate Proposals

Illinois Governor wants legislature to appropriate $400 million for effort; Florida simply demands money from Washington.

We all knew we’d have a fight on our hands after the Congress approved $8 billion in funds for high-speed rail back in February, and now the contest is entering prime time. California remains the nation’s biggest potential winner; its $30 billion project from San Francisco to Los Angeles already has $10 billion in funds approved by voters last November and the line itself is practically construction-ready. Illinois — wanting a line between Chicago and St. Louis — and Florida — envisioning fast connections between Orlando and Tampa — are particularly interested in not being left out. But their efforts aren’t identical and they prove that it’s high time the federal government define not only what makes a rail line qualified for funds, but also what percentage of total project costs should be covered by

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The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
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