Republicans keep riding the “Trump Train,” but President Joe Biden is boosting real trains and real jobs. Amtrak is seeing demand rebound from the pandemic and, thanks to the current Administration, is adding train service:
Amtrak has a goal of doubling its ridership by 2040 to achieve 65 million riders, and predicts it can fully recover the 33 million riders it recorded before the pandemic by 2024.
Adding new and more frequent service is essential to achieving that kind of growth, and Amtrak is preparing to oversee billions in capital work over the next several decades. It will get $22 billion in direct aid from the federal infrastructure package. Another $44 billion goes toward competitive transit grants that states can tap into for various rail proposals — with Northeast Corridor projects eligible to receive up to $32 billion, [CEO Stephen] Gardner said [Danielle Muoio Dunn and Janaki Chadha, “After a ‘Near Death’ Experience, Amtrak Prepares for Rapid Growth,” Politico, 2022.08.08].
The Biden Train puts real people to work:
With the windfall of federal dollars from the infrastructure law, Amtrak is pursuing major projects along the Northeast Corridor — Amtrak’s Washington, D.C.-New York-Boston route — including major tunnel and bridge replacements. In addition, Amtrak’s intercity corridor plan could add 30 or more new routes and increase service on at least 20 existing lines. To meet those growth needs, Amtrak plans to expand its workforce as much as 21% this year, according to the Amtrak OIG report.
The railroad has hired 1,500 new employees as of June, but the tight labor market prompted it to offer hiring bonuses and relocation packages to fill critical positions [Dan Zukowski, “Amtrak Aggressively Rebuilding Its Workforce as Federal Dollars Pour In,” Smart Cities Dive, 2022.07.13].
The Trump Train consisted of one fat old rich guy bouncing in the seat of a semi and honking the horn. The Biden Train puts more real trains on real tracks and puts more Americans to real work.
Will rail service ever exist in South Dakota, though? Last I checked, a person had to travel to Colorado or North Dakota to catch Amtrak. If “drought stricken” states such as California, Nevada, and Arizona can clamor about building a water pipline from the Missouri or Mississippi Rivers, I’d think Amtrak through South Dakota would be just as feasible.
The Milwaukee Road terminates at East St. Pat and Elk Vale Road in Rapid City so a depot there has merit but the purchase of a right of way from there to the RCPE and its route south to Dakota Junction in Nebraska would have to happen. There is an abandoned track bed between Crawford and Torrington, Wyoming that could serve Cheyenne: a destination on Amtrak’s Front Range expansion timetable.
The US is not China; we can’t build rail lines anywhere we want to because the state can’t just seize land without due process. The unhinged South Dakota Legislature is largely a product of ALEC because the Koch network has billions stashed tax free in South Dakota banks. To them passenger rail is socialism.
Look on the bright side, South Dakota. It’s not in President Biden’s rail plan but if someday Amtrak connects the Southwest Chief at Pueblo or Trinidad, Colorado to the Empire Builder at Shelby, Montana through Denver there might be a depot at Edgemont.
Larry, “just compensation” is a better way to wrap up eminent domain. Good analysis, thanks.
The US was sold a bill of corporate capital crap when it abandoned passenger rail for highways choked with polluting cars and trucks. This occurred through a cabal of the construction, auto, tire, congressional industrial complex.
The Interstate Highway Act’s flaw is that it needn’t have been either – or, but should have been both public rail and public highway infrastructure. Ike only saw or only highlighted half of the European model, inexplicably ignoring the rails that contributed more to the war efforts than did highways.
The beneficial hand of government is that it “owns” the roads. The car and truck companies do not expend capitol to create, maintain, or even plow the roads.
The beneficial hand of government is that it “owns” the airports and the air traffic control system. Airlines do not expend capitol to create or maintain the airports and air traffic system.
A balanced approach would have the government own and maintain the intercontinental rail infrastructure.
A continental nation must have an intercontinental rail system.
There ought to be an AmTrak line from Chicago, via I-90 (minimizing eminent domain takings while maximizing using existing public domain rights of way), to the Black Hills, then connecting to Yellowstone.
On-going turmoil in the passenger airline systems in North America and Europe are evidence that system does not work well enough for mid-to-short haul trips. Europeans placed huge re-investment back into rail as the most cost effective and efficient movers of people and products. The US, Canada, and Mexico should likewise massively increase their investment in public rail infrastructure. The US is a continental nation and ought to act like one.
That evil socialism is a job creator. Who woulda thunk?
Eighteen Montana counties plus the Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Northern Cheyenne and Apsáalooke Nations have joined in the Big Sky Rail Authority’s march towards the restoration of the North Coast Hiawatha.
Lines from Sioux Falls to the Cities (would connect with the Empire Builder) and to Omaha (would connect with the CA Zephyr) would seem to be no-brainers.
Pre-Amtrak passenger service to Rapid City went through Pierre and Huron and then east to Chicago. A line that paralleled I-90 would be nice but I think would have to be all new track. There might be more demand for service to Denver and Billings.
One solution to bring Amtrak to South Dakota is an intermodal route between Minneapolis and Denver through Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Crawford and Alliance, Nebraska. It involves three or more rights of way: the Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe Railway, the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad, the former Milwaukee Road and maybe the Union Pacific. The sale of the old Milwaukee Road to Watco is not a done deal and would have to go away. Watco is buying 285 miles of track. At 6 acres per mile of right of way they are paying about $7602/acre. Why? The sale is intended as a slam of Warren Buffett who owns the BNSF in favor of the Koch Network, nothing more.
But the bridges across the Missouri and Cheyenne Rivers on the Milwaukee Road are junk so are the ones across the Cheyenne and White Rivers on the RCPE south of Rapid.
In 2015 I called an RCPE executive who said that the line between Crawford and Dakota Junction, Nebraska connecting to Rapid City is active and hauling bentonite south to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and to Union Pacific. She said that although there is virtually no westbound shipping over the line between Wolsey and Rapid City, South Dakota or Colony, Wyoming the State of South Dakota subsidizes enough siding development, money that the state receives from the federal government through the transportation bill, that shipments of one-way freight allow the railroad to cash flow. She also told me there are no plans to build track between Colony and Gillette — a tiny distance especially in the First World….
The New Mexico Rail Runner that operates between Belen, south of Albuquerque and Santa Fe through several pueblos is well-supported with stops in each community and has brought increased access to prosperity in an historically poor state.
Denver International Airport is agonizing to fly into and then finding a way back into the city complicated and expensive. If the political will existed the Rail Runner could access the Lamy spur from Santa Fe and go directly into Denver serving Colorado communities along the way.
These comments are all well researched and presented. Thank you.
I25, especially from Pueblo, Colorado to Fort Collins through Colorado Springs and the Denver metro, sucks at biblical proportions as does flying into Denver International Airport so growth on the Front Range is driving planners to pick up the pace on passenger rail.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the Rio Metro Transportation District, which operates the New Mexico Rail Runner just finished laying new ties along a 31-mile stretch of track south of Raton Pass, replacing some 12 miles of bolted rail with welded rail between Lamy and Los Cerrillos and just completed the installation of a Positive Train Control system.
Combined with some $5 million it has set aside, $1 million from the State of New Mexico and a $5.6 million federal grant Amtrak is conducting track and infrastructure improvements for the Southwest Chief between Los Cerrillos, Lamy and Trinidad, Colorado.
In 2020 Game of Thrones author George RR Martin and two other New Mexico celebrities purchased the Santa Fe Southern Railroad and the depot in Lamy. Martin is a major contributor to Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe and to Omega Mart in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now, Meow Wolf Denver has opened Convergence Station in a 90,000-square-foot building at 1338 First St. Meow Wolf even has plans to go international.
Good discussion. Thanks, all. We really need a north-south passenger route through the heart of the country. The start of it is already in operation: the Heartland Flyer between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City with stops in Dallas, Tulsa. It could be extended north to Kansas City, Omaha, Sioux Falls, Fargo, Grand Forks, and why not Winnipeg? It could go south to Houston. Besides connecting us to these cities, this route would connect us to the existing east-west routes, and thus, to much of the country.
Construction on the estimated half-billion dollar Heartland Expressway connecting Rapid City with I-80 in Nebraska or Wyoming (nobody knows) is glacial if not completely stalled while traffic between the Black Hills and Denver continues to increase as does the volume between Denver and Santa Fe.
Moving coal is hardly sustainable: why not move more humans by making more commutes and seasonal migrations ground-based?
Imagine a time when portions or all track is elevated for wildlife egress through a future corridor between the Canadian River in New Mexico and an Amtrak station near the Missouri River in North Dakota then on to the Yukon River in Alaska intersecting with a tunnel under the Bering Strait connecting South and North America to Russia.
My dad and Harold Thune didn’t go to military instruction in a car — they got on trains in Brookings and Murdo to places like Fort Carson yet South Dakota’s senior senator has forgotten all that and its junior senator squandered Amtrak money on a plane after Bill Janklow squirreled it into the Governor’s Club!
When I was 12 years old, in 1961, my parents put me on a train from Tulare, through Wolsey, to Alpena. Half a car was allocated to passengers. They wanted me to have the experience of train travel while it was still possible in South Dakota. I believe east-west service from Chicago to Rapid City via Brookings, Huron, and Pierre, had been discontinued in 1960. Several years ago I took Amtrak from the west coast to Holdrege, Nebraska, rented a car in Kearney, and drove to South Dakota.
New Mexico’s GOP representative voted with the state’s Democrats for final passage of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015. South Dakota’s Republican At-large Representative now Gov. Kristi Noem voted for an amendment that would have ended federal funding for Amtrak as did Montana’s GOP At-large representative, Ryan Zinke, even as they voted to continue subsidized air service.
Forgot the link!
Hey Cory, your adopted state of Nebraska is considering rejoining the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.