There Are Two Railroads Out There: Ours and the One You Imagine

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“There are two railroads out there,” said Amtrak President Alex Kummant in a Wall St. Journal article today. “There’s the one we run every day, and there’s the one everybody imagines is out there.” Kummant was asked about a topic that I wrote about in the Valley Advocate: really fast trains that easily connect metropolitan areas, like they have in Europe.

In the story, Kummant is said to ‘scoff at the idea of European-style high-speed service in the congested Northeast,’ because it would require a dedicated corridor. Today’s system is shared with CSX freight trains, and in parts the trains have to slow down to a snail-like 30 mph to get through a tunnel near Baltimore.

Despite the Amtrak President’s dour outlook on my Euro-rail fantasies, the rail line has seen surging ridership, as much as 33% on the line between San Francisco and Sacramento. In the east, things are crowded, but there’s a good hope for more funds to buy more railcars. A bill would authorize $3 billion in borrowing and channel $400 million in gas taxes each year to the railroad. Now that’s progress.