Friday, September 5, 2008

Time for High Speed Rail Corridors in Alberta

The time has come for the provincial government to protect a corridor for high speed rail connecting Alberta's two largest cities.

Whether or not it is viable now, and I believe it is on many levels, a ROW needs to be established before continuing development makes the process more difficult and more expensive. When the time is right and a competent private operator is determined, the government should build the infrastructure in the same way it builds infrastructure for roads, airports, schools, hospitals and economic generators.

The Calgary-Red Deer-Edmonton rapid passenger corridor would ultimately form the backbone of a larger system that includes extensions to Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and possibly Canmore. The system will also need to seemlessly integrate with the major citys' LRT systems, regional transit, conventional passenger rail and airports.

Such a system would solidify the Calgary-Edmonton corridor as a world-class economic powerhouse, reduce congestion on the busy Highway QE2, reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, provide an opportunity for significantly greater productivity, delay or eliminate the need for increased highway capacity that in itself would cover the capital cost of building the high speed line and provide an alternative to those who either don't have cars for whatever reason or choose not to use their cars or air travel between the two major cities.

An extension to Fort McMurray, and ultimately other high traffic generators in the province, would further expand the benefits to the economy and increase the safety of the Edmonton-Fort McMurray corridor.

The benefits of the system to Red Deer, assuming a terminal is built here, is very significant, in that the city and region could attract new residents that frequently travel for business to the two major cities (and ultimately Fort McMurray) and even attract companies that see the strategic value of a location mid-way between the two major cities.

It's admittedly a visionary concept not unlike the vision to build the four-lane Highway 2 almost 50 years ago or the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway 120 years ago. The number one objection to building high speed rail now is that the population isn't great enough to support it but almost all visionary transportation projects in the past that we seemingly couldn't live without today suffered the same objection. Far more important is its potential value to the economy, overall mobility and transportation system, environment, lifestyle, health and freedom of choice.

Even if it is proven that such a system is not viable in the short term, it surely will be in the future and it's only common sense that the corridor be secured now.

Also see 'The Vision for Inter-Urban Rapid Passenger Transportation Corridors in Alberta'

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