Saturday, June 28, 2008

Cleveburgh+ Corridor

While the Urbanophile is skeptical about the linking of weak cities (I'll address the challenge in detail tomorrow), I'm excited about the prospects of building an economic corridor stretching from Columbus in the west and Pittsburgh in the east northward to Toronto. Null Space has promoted a Toronto strategy for Pittsburgh for a while now. The recent surge in gas prices is breathing new life into that vision:

[U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, R-Bainbridge Township,] is a strong proponent of a passenger rail system, but said it needs to proceed in a way he believes can actually be done.

He is excited about the high-speed rail plan under development for about 10 years by the Ohio Rail Development Commission based in Columbus.

Since funding for the plan always has been the problem, there is hope that the new federal legislation would change that if it becomes law, said Stu Nicholson, ORDC spokesman.

"I've never been more optimistic than I am now," he said. "This bill is huge. It's as much of a game changer as $4 a gallon for gas is."

Part of the plan calls for a corridor from Cleveland to Buffalo to Toronto and also to Pittsburgh.

I blogged yesterday about the privileged position Rust Belt cities might hold if gas prices remain relatively high. I'm not thrilled with the talk about commuter mass transit, which will help maintain sprawl, but high-speed passenger rail between urban centers is another story. Making it easier for someone in Columbus to do business in Buffalo should spur economic growth in both cities. Or, urban residents of Pittsburgh could walk to the train station for a day at the beach in Erie.

The above is the kind of mega-regional thinking Richard Florida champions. But noting a contiguous stretch of urban lights isn't a useful way to define the economic area. The parochial geography of the Rust Belt will be difficult to overcome (as John Austin and Richard Longworth well know). To some extent, Greater Cleveburgh already exists. Buffalo and Toronto test the limits of this corridor, but not for my Erie-centric worldview.

See you in Erie ...

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