Richard Florida just issued a call in this month's Atlantic Monthly to build "rail connectivity within the mega-regions. There are the fast trains along the Boston/New York/Washington corridor that have allowed Washington, in effect, to become a commuter suburb of greater New York. But how about a place like Detroit? If Detroit were better connected to Chicago, one could imagine Detroit having a better reason for existing. Or Pittsburgh. If Pittsburgh were better connected to Chicago or even to Washington, D.C.—it’s only a four-hour drive—that could spur growth." I won't use his example cities, but will assume in our example that we've got high speed rail between Chicago and Milwaukee and Chicago and Indy that provides a terminal to terminal journey time of 90 minutes. In the case of Milwaukee, this is actually already true - future rail upgrades will only shave that time down even further.
Both Florida and Renn (Urbanophile) recommend that promising second tier cities better connect with a world class city. The next generation of rail is considered to be instrumental to building a functional globalization infrastructure. Who should your city pair up with in order to best promote economic development?
At the eastern end of the Midwest, Pittsburgh is a facinating case. Money flowing from the current stimulus will likely fix the Burgh as one end of some yet-to-be-named high-speed rail initiative. Florida offers up Chicago or Washington, DC. Earlier today, I read about a Pittsburgh-NYC pairing. Regardless, Pittsburgh will be the intermediary between the Midwest mega-region and the Bos-Wash corridor. And you can bet that Cleveburgh will want a piece of that action.
The Mahoning Valley shatterbelt is coming to the fore and Pittsburgh's stategic geographic position is reaffirmed.