When President Biden signs a $1 trillion infrastructure bill on November 15, the country’s transportation systems will get a large, much-needed influx of federal funding, including one of our favorite ways to travel and more environmentally friendly: the railway.
The comprehensive, bipartisan Employment and Investment in Infrastructure Act, which was passed by the House last week, aims to provide the country’s leading rail operator, Amtrak, with $66 billion, the largest federal investment in passenger rail service since Amtrak was founded 50 years ago.
So what will Amtrak do with all that money? The main goal is to “bring the passenger rail closer to more people across the country,” Amtrak said in a statement sent to AFAR.
For starters, the rail operator will invest more in the Northeast Corridor, a network that includes lines in New England, Connecticut-Westchester, New York City, the North Mid-Atlantic and the South Mid-Atlantic.
Amtrak plans to fund an ambitious 15-year Northeast Corridor project that would offer more frequent service, reduce travel times and add connections to some newer markets. Also on the agenda are major infrastructure projects and stations for lines connecting Washington, DC and Boston, as well as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Springfield, Massachusetts, Amtrak said.
In addition, the railway operator said it intends to replace the 45-year-old North East long-distance Amfleet with new trains.
What about the rest of the country?
In an interview with Axios on HBO after the House passed the infrastructure bill, Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn gave some clues as to which U.S. cities and regions could see a new rail service and improved thanks to the influx of cash. They include:
California and Nevada: Los Angeles – Las Vegas
“These are essentially new routes where service is virtually non-existent today,” Flynn said in the interview. “I think Nashville would be a great place to stop,” he added, noting that the city still doesn’t have any Amtrak services. “I mean, how many country-western songs do trains include?”
Amtrak told AFAR that national funds would be used to support new intrastate and long-distance passenger trains and infrastructure improvements for domestic routes, as well as to make Amtrak stations fully compliant with the ADA, that is, better trains, better tracks, and more accessible stations.
An investment in railways is also an investment in the environment
The news about rail funding comes the same week that the United States pledged to step up its efforts to curb carbon emissions at the United Nations climate talks taking place in Glasgow, Scotland.
In the United States, the transportation sector is the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2019 (the most recent year for which data are available), transport accounted for 29 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by electricity with 25 per cent and industry with 23 per cent. per cent.
But rail travel is constantly one of the lowest carbon emitters, meaning investing in rail is an investment to potentially reduce emissions. Within the transport sector, road vehicles are the main culprits, accounting for 82% of these emissions, with airplanes 9% and railways only 2% (ships, boats and other forms of transport account for 7% together). ), according to the EPA.
Amtrak reports that its electric trains are responsible for 70% less emissions per passenger mile compared to a short-haul flight and about half of the emissions compared to a long-haul flight.
In short, if you choose to catch a train instead of a plane, your carbon production for that trip will probably be a little lower. Unfortunately, this has not been so easy to do in the United States, where the rail system has been notoriously lagging behind in sophistication and scope compared to its international counterparts, including Europe’s high-speed rail networks.
Hopefully, that will change soon.
The Associated Press contributed to the information.