In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama called on us to reignite the engine of economic growth. Here at DOT, we know that investing in America's transportation infrastructure is one way to jump-start that economic engine--through the construction and engineering jobs created right away and through the efficiencies modern infrastructure provides to our nation's businesses.
To see an example of this in action, we need look no further than our own Midwest, where U.S. high-speed rail investments are already boosting economic activity, and where 460 different companies are poised to contribute to the rail supply chain and modernize passenger rail in America.
That means manufacturing growth; it means modernized old-line plants; and it means jobs.
Courtesy, Environmental Law and Policy Center
The President proposed to build on the progress we've made during his first term and strengthen the middle class by making America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing, equipping every American with the skills they need to do those jobs, and ensuring that hard work leads to a decent living. These investments in manufacturing, clean energy, infrastructure, and education will grow our economy from the middle class out—instead of from the top down.
And, according to a report from the Environmental Law and Policy Center, that is exactly what is happening in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio right now--thanks to the development of high-speed and higher performing intercity passenger rail.
"Each car and locomotive is the pinnacle of a large supply chain, creating jobs and economic development in diverse industries cross the country. The federal 'Buy America' standard will ensure that the resulting job growth will happen mostly in the United States."
The ELPC report also found that several plants now involved in rail manufacturing are once-shuttered automobile suppliers that have retooled to seize the opportunities our rail investments have created.
The manufacturing expansion ELPC identified is not just the result of the Obama Administration's investments. Industrial growth is also being driven by the record ridership of rail passengers themselves. In 2012, for example, Amtrak ridership set a new record--for the ninth time in the last ten years. Ridership today is 50 percent higher than it was in 2000.
That increase has led Amtrak to invest in new trains, adding more momentum to the growth in rail manufacturing.
We know that manufacturing jobs--like those up and down the rail supply chain--are a terrific route to the kind of middle class growth President Obama talked about last week. And we are happy to see our investments in next generation passenger rail making a difference.
And we're happy to know that investments in rail will lead to beneficial efficiencies that can help American businesses keep their costs down. Roadway congestion already costs our economy nearly $130 billion each year. With our population expected to grow by 100 million by 2050, we need continued investment in transportation alternatives.
Next generation rail is one of those alternatives. It's good for the environment and for reducing oil consumption. It's good for the record numbers of passengers who are flocking to Amtrak inter-city routes.
And it's good for the middle class workers being hired to join the American rail supply chain renaissance.