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High Speed Rail Gives Midwest Manufacturers a Multi-Million-Dollar Boost

Around 500 Midwestern companies are building rail cars or components for high-speed rail  Courtesy of: ELPC
Around 500 Midwestern companies are building rail cars or components for high-speed rail Courtesy of: ELPC
February 19, 2013

CHICAGO - In the next few years, taking a trip to St. Louis may be a lot quicker, thanks to high-speed rail. The federal government is investing nearly $800 million to jump-start high-speed rail projects, and a new report by the Environmental Law and Policy Center says that means thousands of new jobs in the Midwest.

It's exciting, said ELPC's President, Howard Learner.

"We're now going to see modern, fast higher-speed rail operating between Chicago and Detroit, and Chicago and St. Louis by 2015, 2016, using modern new rail cars that are being assembled in Rochelle, Illinois."

He says 84 companies all over Illinois will be making rail cars or components for the cars as a result of investment in high-speed rail.

One of the companies that will benefit from the federal investment is Funk-Linko in Chicago Heights. Workers there make components for more-energy-efficient rail cars. CEO Vicky Linko says the company has been family-owned for 85 years, and while the recession took its toll, the company is back on its feet, sending products overseas.

Linko said she's excited about helping to bring high-speed rail to the Midwest.

"This is one of the things that will bring back jobs to America," she declared. "I know: I went through the bottom but I'm on my way back up."

Opponents say the U.S. is too large to link cities with high-speed rail efficiently, but supporters say that if other countries can do, it so can we.

Some skeptics say high-speed rail won't happen because there is not enough political will.

According to Howard Learner, the politicians need to understand its benefits.

"It's good for job creation; it's good for pulling together the regional economy; and it's good for environmental quality," he stated.

The ELPC report says that nearly 500 companies in seven Midwestern states will directly benefit from new federal investments in high-speed rail.

That report is at tinyurl.com/arlygtj. Information on Illinois high-speed rail is at idothsr.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL