Transportation is the largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions. A good high-speed rail system would work wonders to help ease that problem. But America's passenger rail system lags far behind the rest of the developed world.
Elsewhere, most high-speed rail projects are built, funded, and fully subsidized by a nation's government. Amtrak is government-owned, but the vast majority of America's rail infrastructure is owned by private companies, who see no profit in passenger rail. The sparse passenger rail network that does exist is grievously behind in safety standards compared to countries like the UK, France, and Japan that rely heavily on high-speed rail.
Every budget submitted by President Trump proposed cutting funding for Amtrak in half - but fortunately Congress disagreed. Still, major investment in high-speed rail remained the dream of a few.
Happily, President Biden has a different vision. Included in the President's proposed $2.2 trillion infrastructure package are two provisions for major rail investments: $85 billion to modernize public transit (commuter rail, buses, etc.) and $80 billion to improve and expand the nation's passenger and freight rail network.
Biden said his American Jobs Plan "will build new rail corridors and transit lines, easing congestion, cutting pollution, slashing commute times, and opening up investment in communities that can be connected to the cities, and cities to the outskirts, where a lot of jobs are these days. It'll reduce the bottlenecks of commerce at our ports and our airports."
The White House said that rail investment would "address Amtrak's repair backlog; modernize the high traffic Northeast Corridor; improve existing corridors and connect new city pairs; and enhance grant and loan programs that support passenger and freight rail safety, efficiency, and electrification."
For those who've been eager for alternatives to the car, this commitment is what they've been waiting for.
Amtrak enthusiastically responded to Biden's plan, putting out a map and a vision for what an expanded US rail network would look like by 2035. Around the country, local news gleefully imagined what expanded rail could mean for their communities.