Our View (Editorial)
High speed rail back on
reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Greg Neiman) July 7, 2010
By the time our school-aged
children start worrying about their own retirement funds, Alberta's
population is expected to be around six million. Three quarters of
that population will live on the Edmonton-Calgary corridor. Since we
happen to occupy the middle space, we'll call it the Red Deer
corridor and claim the two big cities as suburbs of us.
All of that isn't quite as fanciful as it sounds. If we look at one
cornerstone of the province's recently-announced 40-year
transportation plan, Red Deer could become the central hub of a
transportation network through which a whole lot of people and light
freight will pass.
You guessed it, high speed rail is back on. Not the front burner,
mind you, but the on-again, off-again issue is back to a low simmer.
Naturally, when the province mentioned it was taking a new long-term
look at transportation, the Van Horne Institute, based in Calgary,
was pleased. They released a study back in 2004 that said high-speed
rail along the Red Deer corridor was not only feasible, but
necessary for our future economic health.
"Transportation is a key enabler of economic prosperity," said their
CEO Peter Wallis.
Which is about what you'd expect the CEO of a transportation think
tank to say.
Upgrade that low simmer a little bit. High-speed rail was also
identified as a priority over the next three years, in the
province's updated business plan earlier this year.
The province's 40-year plan is still in the "planning to plan" stage
-- and you know how these things go round and round.
But there are immediate pressures in both Edmonton and Calgary for
major upgrades to their urban transportation networks. You can't
help but notice all the light rail and freeway construction in both
centres when you visit.
And if Alberta is to be anything more than the spot on the map where
the oil enters the pipeline, these are the improvements we need. And
-- as the Van Horne Institute points out -- not 40 years from now,
Thus far, opposition comment has come from Calgary Liberal MLA
Darshan Kang. For his part, he wants us to remember that a major
transportation initiative in his city (a tunnel for the Calgary
airport), did not get provincial backing.
He says that a provincial government that can't fix today's problems
can hardly be expected to solve tomorrow's. Fair enough.
But he has it wrong when he says that the government isn't paying
attention to infrastructure problems. At least, that's if the
process recently begun is given a chance to actually become
Of course, public consultation will again be part of the process. It
seems you can't say the words "high speed rail" without starting an
But people who want to take sides on this and any other
transportation issue should really keep the year 2050, not 2010, in
Hwy 2 can get pretty hairy with today's traffic load. What will it
be like when there will basically be nearly the entire population of
Alberta today added on, who want access?
As well, consider that more and more of those people will be doing
something other than working in the energy business. That's in the
Manufacturing, processing, design, research -- things we can export
in addition to energy -- these are the things we have always said we
want to grow in our economy.
These things require the movement of goods and people.
And Red Deer, with our corridor, will be right in the middle of it.