Amtrak has released an expansion proposal for up to 30 new routes over the next 15 years, including introducing or reintroducing the service to existing railways – and adding high-speed railways to others. The environmental impact – in particular when it comes to reduced transportation emissions – is expected to be significant. Amtrak’s current service map has been static for 50 years, and large states like Texas and Florida have minimal service. The new plan could bring service to up to 160 new areas and improve existing service in major metropolitan areas, bringing new jobs and travel equity along with it. This older idea is finally seeing the light of day due to the new federal administration’s infrastructure plan, which includes $80 billion for Amtrak to expand its lines and service.
Amtrak hopes to replicate its popular Northeast train services in the American heartland, South and Intermountain West. The expansion focuses on regions like Colorado, Virginia, and Indiana. In Colorado, a new regional line running from Cheyenne through Denver down to Pueblo will be built. This Front Range Passenger Rail District is seeking approval for a special sales tax that will help fund the new project. In Indiana, new routes will connect across the Midwest, including Cincinnati and Louisville, as well as a Chicago hub. Virginia is already ahead of the game, with a $3.7 billion rail program in place to double the state’s passenger train capacity.
Expanding railways are expected to play an important role in cutting carbon emissions out of the transportation sector. With most rail companies working to become carbon neutral in the next two decades, there is hope that some truck shipping will shift to the rail lines, which have a sharply decreased environmental footprint.
Amtrak’s plan, if fully funded, will result in new rail corridors that connect all major cities within 400 miles of each other – allowing for 20 million more passengers per year. Connections such as Atlanta to Nashville, Phoenix to Las Vegas, and Houston to Dallas are expected to be a priority. The railroad service offers an essential alternative to those regions’ overused interstate highway corridors. This new transportation network will cut into the number of flights and drives Americans make, benefiting the environment and safety of our country.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” President Joe Biden said, “[to] play a central role in our transformation in transportation and economic future, to make investments that can help America get back on track — no pun intended.”