Great Lakes

Great_Lakes.png The Great Lakes megaregion is exploring ways to grow its economy in face of the shrinking role of the manufacturing sector.  The region's assets include the environmental resources and amenities of the Great Lakes and a strong research and cultural tradition tied to its leading public universities.
Principal Cities: Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Indianapolis
Population 2010: 55,525,296
Percent of U.S. Population: 18%
Population 2025: 60,678,100
Population 2050:  71,263,185 
Projected Growth (2010 - 2050): 28.3% (15,737,889)
2005 GDP: $2,072,869,000,000
Percent of US GDP: 17%

Recent Entries

Rail freight traffic is expanding throughout North America, particularly to serve ocean ports. Assuring that transportation infrastructure capacity keeps up with demand is important for global trade competitiveness and national economic security.

A key growth area is in the Great Lakes Megaregion, where an industrial heartland route links Montreal, Toronto, Detroit/Windsor and Chicago. About 60% of Port of Montreal container traffic moves inland by rail, mostly to and from markets in Ontario and the U.S. Midwest - a corridor hampered by a bottleneck at the Detroit River, the world's busiest commercial border crossing. A century-old rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor handles more than 400,000 rail cars each year. The Port of Montreal is doubling container-handling capacity by 2020. The current tunnel can't handle 9' 6" double-stacked container rail cars or Auto-Max vehicle carriers, the most efficient rail shipping modes.

The Continental Rail Gateway (CRG), formed in June 2010, unites Canadian Pacific the Windsor Port Authority and the Borealis Infrastructure investment firm in a replacement rail tunnel venture. The public-private partnership owns the existing tunnel and rail corridor. Project funding calls for $200 million from the partners and $200 million from government sources in each country.


A new study, "The Economic Impacts of High Speed Rail: Transforming the Midwest," sponsored by the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association and Siemens, that was released today outlines the potential benefits of a high-speed rail system in the Midwest Megaregion with it's $2.6 trillion economy, the fifth largest in the world, behind only the U.S., China, Japan, and Germany. Prepared by AECOM and the Economic Development Research Group (EDRG), the study found that a network of bullet trains reaching speeds of 220 mph extending out from Chicago along four main corridors to the Twin Cities, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, would generate tremendous economic benefits for the megaregion.

Visit the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association's website to learn more.

Download the Executive Summary (PDF 9MB).

BTMC_Poster5b.jpgThe WNET/ PBS documentary,"Beyond the Motor City" will go on the road this spring to various cities around the country for screenings and discussions with the director, Aaron Woolf (King Corn), transportation advocates, and local leaders for a screening tour sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation. America 2050 collaborated with the creators of this film and is pleased to promote these events and to call on its partners to consider hosting a screening of the film. More information about hosting a screening in your community is available here.  The documentary aired first on PBS in February and includes excerpts of the America 2050 clip, Journey to Detroit. View a schedule of the screenings in Memphis, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Nashville, Indianapolis, and Newton Center, Mass.  

This clip from the PBS documentary, Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City recounts the history of the Albert Gallatin plan, the Erie Canal, and their impacts on the growth of Detroit and development of 19th century America.

For more about the Gallatin Plan and other national planning efforts, read America 2050's paper 1808-1908-2008: National Planning in America. Clip courtesy of Blueprint America, produced by PBS and Thirteen. 

Journey to Detroit


Sometime in the not too distant future, John wakes up in suburban Chicago on a Saturday morning and heads to a White Sox Detroit. Join him on a 300 mile journey to Detroit's Comerica Park as he experiences the transportation options of the future: a neighborhood electric car share program, smart phone ticketing, high-speed rail, and connecting light rail. This clip is brought to you by America 2050 as part of its "A Better Tomorrow" project to visualize America's future communities and transportation systems.

"Transit is the key to equity..."

Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City examines how Detroit, a symbol of America's diminishing status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. The film, which features clips developed in partnership with America 2050 debuts nationally on PBS on February 8 at 10 pm (check local listings).

The special includes clips of a Chicago to Detroit high-speed rail journey produced by America 2050 and WNET -- a  prototype of how travel may be experienced in the future with  new transportation, energy and civic infrastructure.

Also featured is a research paper commissioned by America 2050 from Professor Robert Fishman, 1808 - 1908 - 2008: National Planning for America, in which Fishman relates the history of national planning in America.
Since 2007, America 2050 has held megaregion forums in seven of America's eleven megaregions nation-wide. There forums were held as part of a "Rebuilding and Renewing America" campaign, which aimed to build support for the infrastructure investments we need to guide America toward a sustainable and prosperous future. The forums aimed to achieve three goals:
  • Build support around the country for an ambitious national infrastructure plan in the areas of  transportation, energy, and water.
  • Identify and prioritize the key infrastructure priorities in the megaregions, which can act as building blocks to a national plan.
  • Create megaregion coalitions to support these megaregion priorities and begin coordinating with each other.
Each megaregion prioritized slightly different issues and has followed up on the forum in varying degrees. To read about the megaregion forums and next steps, download the summary below. Also available is a PowerPoint presentation given by Petra Todorovich at the America 2050 national meeting, which also outlines common principles on federal policy that were emphasized in each of the megaregions.

Download the Summary of Megaregion Forums.

Download a PowerPoint about the Forums.

Blumenauer and Petri.jpg Bob speaking.jpg Bob and MarySue.jpg

Audio recordings are now available from the forum, "Rebuilding and Renewing America: Infrastructure Choices in the Great Lakes Megaregion" held on November 17 by Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council and New York's Regional Plan Association.

The purpose of the forum was to identify and prioritize strategic investments in transportation, water, and energy infrastructure to be included in a national infrastructure and economic stimulus plan.

View a slide show of the event.

Audio recordings were made by Chicago Amplified, a web-based audio archive of Chicago Public Radio. All recordings were made November 17, 2008 at the Chicago Hyatt Regency. The recordings include:

Opening Plenary Session with speakers MarySue Barrett, Robert Yaro, Anne Prammagiore, Canadian Minister Peter Gordon MacKay, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, and John McCarron.

Roundtable on Transportation, featuring Petra Todorovich, Maureen McAvey, Rob Puentes, Ilana Preuss, and Michael McLaughlin

Roundtable on Water,featuring Al Appleton, Samuel Speck, Deborah Shore, MaryAnn Dickenson, Katherine Baer, and Cameron Davis

Roundtable on Energy, featuring Catherine Morris, Sadhu Johnston, Kyle Barry, Wally Tyner, Anne Evens, and Val Jensen

MPO Collaboration in the Great Lakes Megaregion, featuring Randy Blankenhorn, Steve Ernst, Chester Jourdan, Terry Kohlbuss, Tony Reams, John Swanson, David Warm and Robin Snyderman.

Report Out and Closing Remarks, featuring MarySue Barrett, Catherine Morris, Al Appleton, Petra Todorovich, and Bob Yaro

Featured speakers included U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tom Petri (R-WI) and Canadian Minister of Defense and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, Peter Gordon MacKay.

Download the Agenda.

Download the final report.

his forum was organized locally by the Metropolitan Planning Council and nationally by the Regional Plan Association, which is grateful for funding support from the Rockefeller Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.