America’s train network is preparing for a high-speed future

Billions in federal grant money will go into the planned upgrade
One of Amtrak's big beasts. Photo: Rashmee Roshan Lall

The US train network is preparing for an upgrade with the 2021 infrastructure law earmarking billions of dollars for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor’s Acela trains between Boston, New York and Washington DC as well California’s high-speed rail system and Brightline West’s Las Vegas-to-L.A. train.

It’s been a while coming. After all, Japan got its bullet trains 60 years ago and the first high-speed rail lines were built in Europe in the 1970s. Morocco, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea Taiwan, Turkey and the UK have also developed high speed rail infrastructure to connect major cities. This month, a high-speed line across Indonesia’s Java island will open.  In this century, China has led the way on high-speed rail, with Wikipedia asserting that “as of 2023, its network accounted for over two-thirds of the world’s total”.

Now, the US wants a part of the action. Forbes’ Transportation correspondent Alan Ohnsman, reported that Mitch Landrieu, President Joe Biden’s senior adviser on infrastructure, told the High-Speed Rail conference in Washington in May that there were opportunities “outside of the Northeast Corridor…the president wants to go fast. My expectation, and it’s just an expectation, is these decisions are going to be made by [Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg] before the end of the summer sometime. Maybe before the end of the third or fourth quarter.”

Forbes says that “many states and regions beyond California and the Northeast, where Amtrak is most heavily used, are mapping out future high-speed lines to ease travel between big cities up to 300 miles apart, including Texas, the Pacific Northwest and Georgia”.

The encouraging thing is that for the first time, there’s federal grant money to help with America’s rail upgrade plans.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac

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