As gas prices approach five dollars a gallon, one of the most immediate and cost-effective ways to provide relief to consumers is to promote the use of mass transit across this nation. Riding a bus, or taking the train to work is not only an efficient and cost-effective option, it helps to reduce surface transportation congestion, cut carbon emissions that cause air pollution while decreasing consumption of gasoline - all for the betterment of our nation and environment.
However, decoupling ourselves from our automobiles is not an easy task, but one that is essential to moving away from our addiction to oil. In Congress, I am working on bipartisan solutions that encourage the expansion of mass transit. I have also joined with other local leaders to promote incentives for consumers that leave their car in the garage.
While mass transit is not a "silver bullet" solution, it does represent a common sense approach to a growing problem.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, mass transit in the U.S. saves an annual 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline. This represents almost four million gallons of gasoline per day. Factoring in the current average price of gas in the Chicagoland area of more than four dollars, public transit in the region saves consumers more than $1 billion in gasoline costs in our area alone.
Suburban Chicago is poised to be a leader in mass transit. A proposed new commuter rail system could transform our region, but only if we act now. The Suburban Transit Access Route, or STAR Line, would connect nearly 100 communities from Joliet to O'Hare International Airport. This plan would provide safe, reliable transportation options for the more than 1.6 million area residents living in high-congestion areas. The 55-mile route would run along 36-miles of the EJ&E railway and connect to a rail system along I-90.
Unfortunately, this plan is in jeopardy. Canadian National Railway (CN) wants to gain access to the EJ&E rail line and increase the amount of freight that rolls through our backyards, virtually blocking the progress of the STAR line. Stopping CN's acquisition of this vital rail line is critical to increasing mass transit in our area.
Just this week, I announced legislation that would block CN's takeover of EJ&E - paving the way for America's first suburb-to-suburb commuter line. Specifically, my legislation would direct the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) to designate a rail right-of-way as a "Corridor for Inter-Suburban Commuter Rail," for the promotion of mass transit across the nation. Once a corridor is designated, DOT would limit increased usage of the corridor to a project for inter-suburban commuter rail.
This bill would not only help to transform our region, it could help to transform other areas across the country that desperately need alternatives to traffic and high gas prices. This is not a Republican idea. This is not a Democrat idea. It is a good idea and I look forward to working with Members from the Illinois Delegation and other Congressional leaders in passing this important bill.