There’s a Movement Building … With Steel Wheels On Steel Rails!

Several interesting items relating to passenger rail have been in the news in just the past couple of days and these three are just the most recent indication that there is a groundswell of renewed demand for train service occurring in many parts of the country.
First, during a visit to Raton, New Mexico, Amtrak’s president, Joe Boardman (above), delighted residents by stating unequivocally that he’s committed to keeping the Southwest Chief operating on its current route through 2015 and beyond. A 600-mile stretch of track through Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico has deteriorated and no one wants to shell out $200 million over the next ten years to fix it. That has raised fears that the Chief would switch routes and bypass those areas or, worst case scenario, simply stop operating altogether. Boardman’s comments were reassuring, but supporters of the train would be ill advised to relax.
Next comes news that the enlightened State of Massachusetts is going to spend almost $50 million to buy and upgrade 37 miles of  track through the Berkshire Mountains in the western part of that state. The idea is to vastly improve rail travel to New York City from the Pittsfield area by running trains south to Great Barrington and on down through Hartford and New Haven. Yes, indeed … If you build it, they will come!
And finally, there’s the Minnesota DOT that also thinks people will come if a high-speed line is built linking Minneapolis with Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic.  Anyone who has been to the Mayo facilities will immediately understand the potential value of extending rail there. The place is huge, with literally thousands of patients going in and out every day. The state people are serious and are currently working with the Federal Railroad Administration on an Environmental Impact Statement.
These are not isolated incidents … but all three are wonderful and current examples of a simple fact that the anti-Amtrak people in Congress and in the libertarian “think tanks” don’t understand: Americans want more trains!