Amtrak’s big Chicago dream

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All that needs to happen is for Congress to pass President Joe Biden’s proposed $2 trillion national infrastructure plan. And for lawmakers to give Amtrak priority over freight rail on some occasions. And for states to sign on.

But at least the rail agency is thinking big.

According to spokesman Marc Magliari, the “vision statement” fact sheet is an idea of what the long financially challenged passenger rail agency could do if Washington fully climbs aboard.

“It’s our vision of what can be ahead, given that the president has set the table,” Magliari said. “We hope to have more details soon.”

Biden, who before becoming president was a regular Amtrak commuter from his Delaware home to Washington, D.C., earmarked a whopping $80 billion for the rail service, largely for capital needs, in his infrastructure proposal.

Key details about Amtrak’s expansion proposal are not yet available. Such as timing – Magliari says the “vision plan” runs 15 years into the future – or whether states would have to at all match capital or operating subsidies.

Under current procedures, states must pick up as much as 85 percent of the costs of providing some service, but Magliari said Amtrak would like to reduce that, at least in start-up years.

Amtrak argues that rail travel is a lot more energy efficient than flying or driving. And though it doesn’t say so publicly, it likely has a friend in Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend which would get enhanced service under the proposal.

Still, we’ll see. Look for some lively discussion in months to come.

via Crain’s Chicago Business

April 1, 2021 at 04:38PM

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