With much excitement across the country, this week marked the true beginning of America’s recommitment to passenger rail service. Eight billion dollars in stimulus funding was doled out to 31 states in every region of the country. Those investments ranged from a massive down payment on true high-speed rail in Florida to planning grants in Kansas.
However, conspicuously absent were concrete investments in the Intermountain West. Specifically, the peanut-butter spreading missed two of the country’s 10 most traveled air corridors: Los Angeles-Las Vegas and Los Angeles-Phoenix. As we argued in a special Mountain-region brief on the nation’s air traffic, heavy traffic on short-haul air corridors may not by itself indicate rail-readiness but it begins to point to potential loads that might be switched to rail.
Irrespective of some in-house squabbling out West, Washington needs to pay attention to these high-volume aviation corridors. Their enormous passenger volumes present viable locations for ample rail ridership, and interconnectivity to the local airports, transit systems, and highway network will only further enhance metropolitan mobility.
A great way to maintain public support for national rail investment is to build ridership with focused investments--and these two corridors hold out great potential for such building.