Amtrak's ambitious new route map and the push for Biden's infrastructure plan
Laying claim to President Joe Biden's $2 trillion plan to modernize transportation infrastructure, Amtrak has released an ambitious proposal to greatly expand ridership with new routes and enhancements to existing routes.
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With the announcement, Amtrak released a map showing the increasingly interconnected web of routes its proposal would serve.
According to an Amtrak release first shared on Twitter, the proposal would spend $80 billion of the more than $2 trillion total proposed by the Biden plan for bridges, roads, public transportation, ports, airports and electric vehicle infrastructure, and allow for an additional 20 million annual riders by introducing 30 new routes and enhancing 20 existing routes.
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The list of unserved cities that would get new service in Amtrak's proposal includes both burgeoning metropolises like Louisville, Kentucky; Phoenix; Asheville, North Carolina; Las Vegas and Nashville, but also smaller cities like Duluth, Minnesota and Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Meanwhile, established cities like Detroit, Houston and Atlanta would see enhanced service.
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According to the rail organization, the new routes would connect an additional 160 communities in diverse areas of the U.S., allowing it to catch up to the changing face of the U.S.
The Rail Passenger Association issued a statement in support of the Biden plan, and said:
"Make no mistake: the steely knives are already out from opponents of rail. Now will be the time we advocates will have to work harder than we ever have – harder than we did to save the Southwest Chief, harder than we did to restore daily service. But the payoff in multiple new services and maybe even hundreds of new communities served by Amtrak’s long-distance Network could truly be transformative for passenger rail in this country."
The announcement also gives voice to environmentalists, increasingly concerned with the transportation pollution problem. Amtrak points out that expanding its service would be more energy-efficient, suggesting train travel is cleaner than either driving or flying. Amtrak says train travel is “up to 83 percent more energy-efficient than driving and up to 73% more energy-efficient than flying.”
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Amtrak also says the new routes would fill in transportation gaps left open by existing options.
In addition to added routes, Amtrak's proposal calls for improvements to on-time passenger travel by streamlining existing processes for accessing freight rail lines and new enforcement for preference over freight trains.
Still, not everyone is a believer in Amtrak's ambitious future. Critics point out Amtrak is suggesting the creation of new low-performing extensions to places, such as Cheyenne, Wyoming, with very low demand.
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The route map appears aimed at getting some Republican sign-off with key lines added in several red states, including Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi and Indiana. It's unclear if that will be enough to get Biden's infrastructure bill through Congress with bipartisan support.
Already, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to oppose the broader bill. He said it won't get any Republican votes. He said, “It’s called infrastructure, but inside the Trojan horse it’s going to be more borrowed money, and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our economy.”
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The suggested new map will likely look much different in the future if the $621 billion Biden is proposing is approved by Congress.
Additional reporting by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.