We, Americans, tend to be fiercely independent, and one of the primary ways we show it, is by insisting on using our own vehicles to travel everywhere we go.
But, that approach can be detrimental to the environment, your pocketbook and even your sanity and overall health (think of how high your stress level climbs when you're stuck in a traffic jam). Nonetheless, we seem to cling to this method of travel and ignore public transportation options even as they expand.
But, it should be hard to ignore what happened in Dwight today, when an official groundbreaking event brought Sen. Dick Durbin and an array of Amtrak and Illinois Department of Transportation officials to town.
Their purpose is to start the process to build the first station that will serve the long-discussed high-speed rail line that will link Chicago and St. Louis. These trains will travel at 120 mph, and depending on your destination, cut travel times by an hour or more compared to a car or conventional train trip.
It also could potentially cut your commuter costs. As Dwight village administrator Kevin McNamara said, "round trip tickets can be as low as $14.'' He predicts Chicago commuters will embrace the high-speed rail once it is available a year or so from now. It will be affordable, eliminate the prospect of being caught in traffic and also eliminate the high price of parking in the city.
Chicago commuters living closer to the center of Kankakee County and Iroquois County already have a viable option. They can use the River Valley Metro system to get to the Metra station in University Park, which puts a rider in downtown Chicago an hour later for a price similar to the one McNamara suggested.
The Dwight alternative will come in handy for people who live on the western edge of Kankakee County, and also those who live in parts of Livingston, Ford, Grundy and Will counties. What does it ultimately mean?
It could bring more people who work in Chicago, but don't care for the hustle and bustle nor the higher taxes residency there requires, to these parts in search of a home. That would add to the property tax base among other things.
There are those opposed to high-speed rail. They have numerous concerns, the potential of creating safety problems at some crossings among them.
But, overall, it appears to be a case of the good far outweighing the bad. High-speed rail is the wave of the future. Our region has a choice of getting behind it or getting left behind, and it appears the right choice is being made.