By LAUREN KEITH for lonleyplanet.com
President Joe Biden has announced a $2 trillion plan to improve the USA’s infrastructure that could mean impressive changes for travelers around the country if it’s approved. Improvements include 20,000 miles of rebuilt roads and billions of dollars for seaports and airports, but perhaps the most interesting prospect is the $80 billion investment in Amtrak, the country’s nation-spanning railway.
“It is not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Biden said in a speech near Pittsburgh. “It is a once-in-a-generation investment in America.”
Amtrak has already released an ambitious map of the routes that it would create and improve by 2035 if the funding is secured, with 160 more cities and towns being added to the Amtrak network, including a stop in Wyoming, which does not currently have train service at all.
Most of the new routes would be in the southern and eastern parts of the country, including new connections between Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, and Wichita, Kansas, and Oklahoma City. A long-discussed train route between Las Vegas and Los Angeles would also be reinstated, and a new link between southern California and Phoenix would be constructed. Tunnels and bridges in the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak’s busiest part of the network, would be rebuilt, and there are plans to enhance almost all of the routes out of Chicago, a major hub.
“President Biden’s infrastructure plan is what this nation has been waiting for,” Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement. “America needs a rail network that offers frequent, reliable, sustainable and equitable train service. Now is our time, let’s make rail the solution.”
Train service in the US lags far behind networks in Europe and Asia, but Biden, sometimes nicknamed “Amtrak Joe,” has been a dedicated train rider, including commuting by train between Delaware and Washington DC when he was a US senator. Biden’s infrastructure plan must next be approved by Congress, which remains bitterly divided and has also been coming up with its own plans for infrastructure improvements.