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Opinion: Passenger rail a good alternative to $4 gasoline

(The following column appeared on the Des Moines Register website on May 15, 2011.)

DES MOINES, Iowa — The return of high gasoline prices is a reminder that Iowa needs to move forward with an "all of the above" transportation strategy that provides many options to get around the state and the region. A key piece of this strategy is the expansion of passenger rail, a highly efficient form of transportation that will give Iowans a genuine choice compared to driving or flying.

High oil prices do not just impact the price at the pump, which is already hovering at $4 a gallon before the start of the summer driving season. They also raise the price of jet fuel and, consequently, airline tickets. With the costs rising for our two primary ways of getting around the state and region, we need more choices. Passenger rail is a choice that would come with a host of job, business, community and cost-saving benefits.

At a time when analysts fear rising gas prices may slow economic recovery, why not see this as an opportunity to embrace solutions, like passenger rail, that offer fuel efficient alternative transportation choices, that reduce Iowa's vulnerability to fuel cost escalation, and that spur economic growth?

While some criticize public investments for transportation infrastructure at this time of economic recovery, let's recognize that public dollars are already spent through state and federal investments for roads, highways and airports. The federal government provides significant resources to build and maintain highways and airports. The time has come to recognize that passenger rail is a wise, 21st century investment for our state.

Full column: Des Moines Register

Monday, May 16, 2011

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