TEXAS – Amtrak officials are counting on a massive influx of federal funds to expand service across Texas.
Amtrak’s vision for expansion includes more round trips to the “Triangle of Texas” areas of Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Houston and Austin-San Antonio to connect four of the country’s 31 largest metropolitan areas .
In its vision for the corridor, Amtrak proposes that the federal government invest $ 75 billion over 15 years to develop and expand intercity passenger rail corridors across the country.
The plan would be implemented in collaboration with states, local communities, government and other stakeholders to build on Amtrak’s national network by incorporating new and improved corridors to extend the existing system.
The company’s plan to expand rail service across America includes 39 potential new routes and more trips or other improvements on 25 existing routes, creating the potential to expand or improve rail service for 20 million additional passengers each year by providing service to more than 160 new communities.
New stations are said to be built in more than half of U.S. states as part of an additional $ 195 billion in economic activity generated by increased capital investment over the 2021-2035 period.
In Texas, the daily service vision includes three round trips between Houston and DFW, three round trips between Houston and San Antonio and two round trips between DFW and Austin-San Antonio.
Company planners have long coveted a new high-speed rail corridor between Dallas and Houston, and a spokesperson said it was still on the table – though she couldn’t say if it was of top priority.
DFW’s Heartland Flyer service to Oklahoma City and Newton, Kansas would go from one to three round trips between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth and would be linked to the Texas Triangle services. A round trip from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City would be extended to Newton for a connection with the Southwest Chief of Amtrak.
Amtrak Chairman Stephen Gardner and CEO Bill Flynn presented the Heartland Flyer expansion plan in a recent conference call as a high priority, saying it would add between 100,000 and 200,000 passengers per year and would have an estimated annual economic impact of $ 64.8 million.
“We believe the opportunities are real,” said Flynn. “They are tangible. The benefits are quantifiable. And the demand and the ridership are there.
Advocates are placing their hopes in President Joe Biden’s legislative priority, a massive infrastructure investment program. Biden, who earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe” because he rode the train almost daily between Washington and his home in Wilmington, Del., During his 36 years as a United States Senator, has proposed dozens of billion dollars to tackle Amtrak’s repair backlog. , improve service along the Northeast Corridor and expand service across the United States
But the president and Congress struggled to come to an agreement, stuck on the scope of the package and how to pay for it. Biden walked away from a Republicans-only proposal after negotiators were unable to resolve differences. But now a bipartisan group of senators are regrouping behind closed doors, encouraged by Biden to continue working on the effort.
Democrats have a new deadline to adopt President Joe Biden’s economic program.
The party will seek to pass both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and broader investment in social programs by the end of October, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. , to his caucus in a letter. The party aims to approve the plans before the expiration on October 31 of major transport funding programs, which infrastructure legislation would renew.
To succeed in what they see as a transformative investment in the social safety net and climate policy, Democrats will need to satisfy progressives who thought an initial price of $ 3.5 trillion was too low and at least a centrist who doesn’t want to spend more than $ 1.5 trillion. Negotiations around the plan, which kicked into high gear last week, are expected to achieve a breakthrough in the coming days for Congress to draft and pass a bill on time.
“Not all members will get everything they wanted,” Schumer wrote to Senate Democrats. “But at the end of the day, we will pass legislation that will dramatically improve the lives of the American people. I think we will do it in October.
The expansion of Heartland Flyer would require the construction of more sections of double track and other improvements, in part to ensure that passenger trains do not stall freight trains. Gardner said the Capitol’s costs “could be in the range of $ 500 million or more.”
In earlier discussions about similar expansions, states backed off because they should have covered the start-up expenses. Under the new proposal, states would not participate in the road until it has been operational for several years, Gardner said.
There is no estimate of the State’s annual share in the long-term project. It is also not known when the project would be completed.