Relieving chokepoints and improving our transportation infrastructure for the future must be a national priority.
By 2050, the US will be home to 100 million more Americans--Americans who will all need to go to school, work, the doctor, and the grocery store. Americans who will put an even greater strain on our highways, byways, and railways, slowing our ability to move the goods that drive our national economy.
This growth will require our freight rail system to transport 4 billion more tons of freight annually than it does today.
That's the reason that Deputy Federal Railroad Administrator Karen Hedlund and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon broke ground yesterday for a new railroad bridge that will effectively eliminate one of the worst rail bottlenecks in the country.
The new Osage River Rail Bridge will carry more than 60 trains each day--both passenger and freight--on the Kansas City-St. Louis corridor.
This improved crossing will speed up travel for more than 600 Amtrak Missouri River Runner passengers who ride the route daily, creating faster, more convenient connections. It will also help get grains, raw materials, and finished products where they need to go more efficiently, providing a welcome boost to economic competitiveness for Missouri's farmers, manufacturers, and businesses.
The new bridge is also part of the Midwest Regional Rail Network, connecting cities in a densely populated mega-region covering Missouri and eight other states. This region is already overwhelmed by congested roadways and crowded airports. It needs better transportation options. Bringing safe, fast, convenient, affordable high-speed rail to these areas will create jobs, increase economic opportunities and relieve gridlock.
At yesterday's groundbreaking, Deputy Administrator Hedlund observed, "When you make passenger rail service faster, more reliable, more frequent and more comfortable, more people choose it."
And she's right; more people are definitely choosing rail. In fact, on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, train ridership since 2000 has more than doubled.
When he took office, President Obama had a vision for a high-speed rail network that would connect 80 percent of Americans. And the rail enhancements necessary for a modern high-speed network will also improve the performance of American freight rail.
With projects like the new Osage River Rail Bridge, the Federal Railroad Administration is helping turn the President's vision into reality.