President Biden and SecTrans Buttigieg unveil a once in a generation plan to boost passenger rail service in the country, touts high speed rail in Texas Amtrak unveils ConnectsUS that calls for more Texas train service over the next 15 years
It's been a busy week for passenger rail announcements from both the Biden Administration and Amtrak's C-Suite.
On Wednesday President Biden unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would include $80 billion for passenger railway and freight rail projects over the next 15 years. The plan would require congressional approval with projects and details to be mapped out. Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn described the proposal as “what this nation has been waiting for."
Jumping into the excitement, Amtrak announced its “Amtrak Connects US” fact sheet and map that shows existing lines, with enhanced service between key markets on the national network. Amtrak also suggested some new routes in "Our Vision 2035." Flynn said “with this federal investment, Amtrak will create jobs and improve equity across cities, regions, and the entire country and we are ready to deliver."
In Texas the Amtrak "Connects US" plan would add more trains between Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin and San Antonio, service between Houston and San Antonio and reviving a service between Dallas, through College Station to Houston. It would also include increasing trips on the once-a-day existing Heartland Flyer between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City with an extension north to Wichita and Newton, Kansas to connect to national east-west service (see map below). Amtrak Media spokesman Marc Magliari said “our desire is to be much greater utility to Texas than we’ve been in the past.”
"Right now Texas rail passengers have few options to travel by train between our cities," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "I applaud Amtrak for coming up with a vision for our growing state. We need to build on all transportation modes and that includes passenger rail. The dream of connecting the Texas Triangle of DFW-Austin-San Antonio-Houston were the majority of people live in the state has been on paper for a few decades. Now it's time to turn plans into reality", said LeCody.
The Texas Central Central high-speed line between Dallas and Houston, a private project, wasn't left out of the mix either. Transportation Chief Buttigieg said “think about what it would mean in Texas to have excellent high-speed rail. When it comes to rail, why should Texas be inferior to China?”
Freight railroads would get somewhat of a boost from the proposed $80 billion plan if it stays in its current form through Congressional wrangling. Improvements to freight rail lines that carry passenger trains, such as additional sidings and double-tracking, would help preserve the free-flow of commerce. According to a fact sheet from the White House, the Biden Administration wants to “enhance grant and loan programs that support passenger and freight rail safety, efficiency and electrification.” .