With $80 Billion, Amtrak Wants to Be a Better Alternative to Flying and Driving

Moynihan Train Hall in New York City

By Kurt Stolz on 6 April 2021
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Amtrak, which is receiving $80 billion as part of President Joseph Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure package, released a 14-year plan detailing how it plans to modernize rail service in the United States, and it’s clear that the railroad wants travelers to consider it when planning short flights as well as long drives.

The plan calls for dozens of new routes as well as for the modernization of existing routes, many of which have been allowed to deteriorate for decades.

New routes under the plan include service linking Atlanta with Chattanooga, Nashville, and Montgomery; service connecting Milwaukee with Green Bay, Madison, and Eau Claire; new service out of Indianapolis with a connection to Louisville; new routes from Los Angeles to both Las Vegas and Phoenix; and new routes from New York City to Scranton and Allentown as well as from Manhattan to Nassau County. The plan also calls for a revamping of Amtrak’s Texas network including the addition of service linking Dallas and Houston.

The railroad is proposing over 30 new routes in all, and these could connect 160 additional communities in the country.

In addition to the new routes, the president’s plan calls forrepairing major tunnels and bridges along the Northeast Corridor, many over a century old, and to rehabilitate stations.

“President Biden’s infrastructure plan is what this nation has been waiting for,” said Bill Flynn, the railroad’s CEO. “Amtrak must rebuild and improve the Northeast Corridor, our National Network and expand our service to more of America.”

In order to prepare its final projected list of new city pairs, the railroad said it looked at those with the lowest potential operating cost and consulted with state governments, which could in turn help fund the operation of such new routes.

The list of routes in general follows recommendations made by the Federal Railroad Administration, an agency that is part of the Department of Transportation that is responsible for enforcing rail safety regulations as well as conducting research in support of national rail transportation policy. It is also responsible for ensuring the rehabilitation of Northeast Corridor rail passenger service.

The FRA, in multiple reports, has said that population growth and highway and airport congestion should spur improvements in rail connections. One FRA model showed that the creation of more interconnected rail service in the Southwest “could alleviate demand for the highway system.”

In the Northeast, Amtrak hopes to build a new tunnel linking New Jersey and New York City and replace a tunnel under Baltimore that opened shortly after the Civil War. On Monday, Amtrak announced an expansion of its Acela high-speed train service connecting Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston, adding two weekday round-trip trains. The Northeast Corridor is the railroad’s busiest in North America, with approximately 2,200 trains operating over some portion of the Boston-Washington, D.C. route, making 18 million trips per year.

The Acela train service, which operates only in the Northeast Corridor serving nine states and 16 stations, is the fastest in the Western Hemisphere. It is capable of reaching 150 mph (241 km/h) on certain sections of its route between Boston and New Haven and 135 mph (217 km/h) between New York City and Washington, D.C. On average, according to Amtrak, train travel produces 67% fewer emissions per passenger than flying.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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