As the founder of two organizations, the Indiana High Speed Rail Association, now the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance, and the Northwest Indiana World Trade Alliance, I get comments and questions about the infrastructure in Indiana. Asian and European investors, in particular, are interested in the state’s passenger rail system, which, except for Northern Indiana, does not exist.

Just as freight rail is a key transportation mechanism for moving about goods and products, passenger rail can be an essential mechanism for moving about people in a timely, efficient and comfortable way of travel. There is so much more a business traveler can do on a train than he or she can do in a car or even on a plane.

Businesses are clamoring for efficiencies all the time, but often ignore the corporate travel issues. Would it not be nice to take a train to Chicago in the morning, meet with any respective business partner during the day and return later in the day? At the IRS recommended fifty-one cents per mile for car travel; plus other car related expenses, travel anywhere can be very expensive for a company. With timely and efficient passenger rail, that cost would diminish measurably and be so much more efficient and productive.

Cars and planes will always be with us. They will not go away. However, passenger rail needs a serious discussion and needs to be added to Indiana’s transportation mix and policy. There are other reasons why this is true.

High-tech anything is an attraction to prospective employees. High-tech trains would add to that attraction, as well as trains built for efficiency and up to standards for the 21st century. Studies have shown that these type trains will add measurably to both the state and local economies. In fact, the commercial investment is shown to be sizable.

An argument against passenger rail is that the initial construction does not add to the economy and employment that does building an interstate, and that is true. However, in the long term, what the trains can do for Indiana communities cannot be disputed.

And then there are environmental issues which clean fuel consuming trains can address and remedy. Flying from Chicago to Indianapolis and vice versa is expensive for both the traveler and the airline, expensive for the traveler and very time consuming. Taking a fast and timely train would satisfy that concern.

If Indiana is truly serious about being a business-friendly state, would like to attract the best and brightest of employees and add significantly to the local and state economy, its businesses would generously benefit from having 21st century passenger trains as an option in travel decisions. In fact, it is my guess that at some point, it could be difficult to get a reservation on one of these trains. The new Iowa Pacific Hoosier State line from Indianapolis to Chicago, via Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Renssalaer and Dyer is often sold out.

W. Dennis is the founder and vice president, business relations of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance. He can be contacted at dennis@indianahighspeedrail.org. He lives in Gary.

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