“Decades behind”: Amtrak plans urgently needed upgrades

President Trump’s pledge to invest a trillion dollars in infrastructure made no mention of our country’s outdated rail system.

Decades of lack of funding and infrastructure investment have caused Amtrak, the nation’s passenger rail network, to lag behind most of the developed world.

Recent derailments and other problems have pushed Amtrak to begin replacing aging tracks and other equipment at Penn Station, the nation’s busiest rail terminal.

AP

For over a century, railroads were the backbone of America. Trains moved people between cities and provided freight transport for industry. But by the mid-twentieth century, competition from interstate highways and airlines forced many railroads out of business.

In 1971, Amtrak was established as America’s passenger rail service. But it has struggled since Day One, plagued with problems it still hasn’t solved: most routes never made a profit, and in many cases, Amtrak doesn’t even own the tracks.

Stephen Gardner, who oversees planning for Amtrak, says there are about 150 trains on the whole Northeast Corridor. “In order to provide fast, frequent, reliable passenger trains, you really need to build a system for just that, a dedicated system,” he told CBS News’ Peter Greenberg.

Extensive repair work at Penn Station in New York City is expected to inconvenience thousands of rail commuters this summer. Amtrak officials say three tracks at a time will be closed at Penn Station so that rails, switches and other aging equipment can be replaced.

AP

But it’s not just dedicated systems; it’s funding new tracks across the entire Amtrak network. The Acela, which is supposedly Amtrak’s high-speed rail system, can only go 150 miles per hour on a small section of tracks.

To compare, the bullet train in Japan can reach speeds of 200 mph to make the 250-mile trip between…

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