I used to love trains. Hell, I still love trains, though the “honeymoon” wore off some time ago. Connecticut has what I like to call a “half-finished” railway system. My state is small, but very congested, which is why rail commuting is on the rise here. Yet the tracks are old, incomplete, and can’t even handle the full speed of the Acela high-speed train that currently runs on them. Also, a lot of people don’t want to listen to high-speed trains ripping through their backyards.
None of that is stopping Amtrak from proposing a $117 billion upgrade to the Northeast Corridor over the next 30 years that would make room for a 220 mph bullet train between Boston and Washington D.C. Can we afford it though, and more importantly, is it worth it?
I may be young, but I’ve learned that almost any project with a “projected cost” will have cost overruns. It’s like California’s high-speed rail, which went from costing $45 billion to $65 billion, and the project has barely begun. So in my mind, $117 billion would just be the start of costs. However, this corridor would benefit a lot of people, reaching upwards of 33 million people by the time it was completed, creating 40,000 temporary jobs, and 120,000 jobs from “economic benefits”.
The Amtrak proposal would go between Boston and Washington D.C., with one high-speed train that makes just two stops in between at Philadelphia and New York. The current “high-speed” Acela train can do this trip in about 6.5 hours, but a new “Super Express” train would cut that time down to about 3.5 hours. This would require new tracks to be built, as well as maintaining and upgrading current tracks and providing plenty of local access as well. And of course, there are plenty of NIMBYs to get in the way. It is easy for me to sit here and say “they could build it in my backyard” because I know they won’t. Would I really want a train line cutting my town in two though? Not really.
I’m torn. We could do a lot of good with that $117 billion going towards other areas… but spread out over 30 years, that is just under $4 billion a year. Is it worth the cost and should we take the big plunge? Or should we take smaller steps first, and perhaps improve current rail service so it appeals to a broader base? I’ll tell you one thing, those Amtrak train cars could use a bit of upgrading.
Source: Infrastructurist | Image: Amtrak