Guest Commentator: John Fry, President, Drexel University, @drexeluniv

How will the development of High-Speed Passenger Rail Connections accelerate Philadelphia’s progress as a global city and in what ways will this infrastructure attract and retain the workforce of tomorrow? 

Top-tier global cities have world-class transportation networks. The digital economy has made it easier for companies to choose where to locate. As competition for companies and capital heats up, cities with the most up to date transportation networks will be best positioned to compete.

That is why the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s CEO Council for Growth has made transportation a top priority for the region. The CEO Council for Growth identified nine transportation projects that are achievable over the next two decades and would have the biggest impact in attracting, retaining and growing new and existing businesses.

The projects include: creation of a Market-West high-capacity transit station; expansion of the Market-Frankford Line; and extension of the Norristown High Speed Line. But one project in particular could dramatically boost economic activity for the Philadelphia region: Increasing high-speed intercity rail connections at 30th Street Station to other points along the Northeast Corridor.

The Northeast Corridor is interconnected and depends on the ability to move goods and people between the region’s urban centers. Bolstering high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor will better connect central business districts and research and development clusters around universities and hospitals, where so much innovation takes place.

When Amazon released its request for proposals for a second headquarters, it outlined several core requirements that included access to mass transit routes, as well as proximity to major highways; an international airport; and a metropolitan population center of over 1 million people.

Philadelphia meets or exceeds many of Amazon’s requests. In addition, the region has an excellent public transit system and a major shipping port. We are strategically located on the Eastern seaboard between New York and Washington. And we have over 100 colleges and universities within a 50-mile radius of Philadelphia that can provide a steady pipeline of talented and skilled employees to Amazon.

Those assets and many more helped Philadelphia formulate an extremely competitive bid for Amazon HQ2. The competition for Amazon is fierce, with 238 bids coming from across the country. Whether the Seattle-based electronic commerce giant comes here or not, the reality is that every company is looking for many of the same assets that Amazon wants.

That is why having high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor would enhance Philadelphia’s overall competitiveness. Investing in high-speed rail along the Northeast Corridor, as well as other transportation projects, will enable the region to better compete, attract and retain skilled workers, and foster greater economic growth.

In addition to being Chairman of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, John Fry is a member of the Chamber’s CEO Council for Growth (CEO Council), a devoted group of business, higher education, and civic leaders who commit their time and efforts to enhancing economic growth and prosperity in the 11-county region influencing regional and national policy through advocacy.

This blog post is one in a series of submissions bringing exposure to project areas listed in the CEO Council’s Connecting the Region: A Transportation Strategy for Greater Philadelphia.