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High Speed Rail: Midwest Moving Forward

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High Speed Rail: Midwest Moving Forward


Over the past half century, high-speed rail (HSR) has emerged as an important component of the intercity passenger transport system, providing both an alternative and a complement to highway and air transport. The U.S. was once at the forefront of efforts to develop HSR technology, but over the past three decades Asian and European countries have moved ahead and developed extensive and increasingly sophisticated and integrated systems, with maximum speeds on some dedicated HSR lines exceeding 220 mph. Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, and states in the region have long recognized that the midwestern United States represents a viable potential HSR network, with Chicago as the hub. Thanks to recent federal initiatives the pace of this planning and construction has substantially increased. Nevertheless, development of both incremental and dedicated high-speed rail in the midwest, and in the US in general, has a long way to go and continues to face financial, economic, engineering, and political challenges. These must be understood and dealt with in order for high-speed rail in the Midwest to succeed and achieve its full potential.

This seminar will feature three speakers who will address various aspects of the topic. Professor Hani Mahmassani from Northwestern University will discuss HSR as part of the overall transportation system, with particular focus on its role in the midwest vis-à-vis other transport modes. Professor Christopher Barkan from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will discuss some of the HSR engineering and technology challenges unique to the U.S., particularly in the context of sharing corridors with freight railroads. Mr. Michael Franke of Amtrak will discuss recent progress, and both near- and longer-term plans for development of the Midwestern HSR network.


Recorded Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at the Harold Washington Library Center.

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