Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reader Email: High-Speed Rail v. Road Maintenance

This blog has only been live since October 23, but within that time, I have gotten more comments and site-traffic than I ever thought I would in a short two week period (yes, 15 comments isn't earth-shattering, but it is still great to know people are interested).

Building upon this trend of community participation, I got an email last night from some a reader going by the name of Jon with a pointed question about the true benefits of high-speed rail systems:
Jon writes:
In your weekly review, you talk about these high-speed rail systems damaging the growth of our nation's infrastructure.  I know that in Wisconsin they are talking about taking the money and diverting it to improving the roads instead.  Don't you think that in a world where most people own a car, money would be better suited to be [spent]* on the roads that these car owners are using?
This is a great point which I am sure that many people do think about when they hear about the $800+ that is planned to be spent on these rail systems.  In the short-term, it is mind-numbing to think that this money is going to be focused on one particular project.  However, I believe that in the long-run the state of Wisconsin (along with any other state that implemented these rail-systems) will actually make and save money from high-speed rail.

They will make money because Wisconsin is a beautiful state with many scenic areas to visit (if you haven't been to Northern Wisconsin, you are missing out) and you also have a sports rivalry between Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois.  By having highly efficient rail systems leading into Wisconsin, you could then make the prospect of heading to Wisconsin for the weekend even more appealing to tourists and sports fans which would end up pumping even more money into the state.

Who doesn't want to see this guy?
Wisconsin would also save money because they wouldn't have to spend so much money constantly maintaining their roadways.  Traffic from tourism takes a large toll on roadways which places a large demand on maintaining the roads.  By having a rail-system in place, you would reduce the need for people to drive their cars on the roads which in turn lowers the demand to constantly be resurfacing your roadways.

Finally, I know most people have a hard time caring about it because right now there is no real cost to it, but by reducing the level of cars on the roads you are reducing the level of pollution being emitted by traffic.  To put it in perspective, Wisconsin is such a beautiful state when it comes to trees, wildlife, and waterways - all of this is damaged by an increased level of traffic-pollutants.  This is just another thing that high-speed rail would help mitigate.

These are the most prominent reasons for why I think that spending money on high-speed rail is a smarter investment than continually dumping money into the financial-vampire that is road maintenance.

Thanks for writing in, it definitely took me by surprise and I really do appreciate the level of interest that has been show in this blog.  I encourage others to feel free to write me an email if they ever have any comments - and if you don't feel like doing that, then go ahead and just write something in the 'Comments' section below each post.

Also, don't forget to follow Sustainabili-City's Twitter and if you have an account with Google (who doesn't?) then go ahead and click the 'Followers' section on the right-side of this page!

*Corrected a spelling error.

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