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Unlocking America's Core

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Middle America



Life at the Speed of Rail; Van Alen Institute

Project Team:
Infranet Lab
Neeraj Bhatia, Maya Pryzbylski, Mason White


Honorable Mention

The ‘white space’ of America has been used as a blanket term that encapsulates 75 percent of America’s land area and 25 percent of the population that does not reside within one of the 11 megaregions. The term ‘white space’ hints at the common attitude toward this vast region as lacking identity, deprived, and empty. Part of this attitude emerges from the fact that several counties in this ‘white space’ are deemed as underperforming with declining populations, employment and wages. Yet simultaneously, this area is at the central core of the country and filled with rich and productive potential. While America has tended to grow from the coast towards the interior, these regions have never been adequately connected by infrastructure to allow for developed and transforming economies. This proposal promotes balanced economic development in America, which extends the high-speed rail (HSR) into the edges of this white space, and by doing so, reveals the richness and diversity of such areas. A series of new HSR terminals interface with existing infrastructures – highways, roads and airports to ‘unlock’ the identities, productive surfaces and vast economic potential of these communities which are newly linked to various megaregions and their associated global markets. Further, as these communities develop their economies, they will also have a ripple effect and stimulate new forms of economic growth in surrounding areas – from new technologies and manufacturing processes to developing knowledge and skill resources –further eroding the ‘white space’. The terminus, which operates as an activator, formally indexes and provides legibility to the productive aspects of the land and creates a new identity for these communities. The constellation of these end points provides a territorial legibility and a sense of place that eradicates the notion of ‘white space’.