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Trains matter to America

Macomb, Ill., and McComb, Miss., are both far from Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC), but both will benefit from overdue investments Amtrak has needed from Congress to make in the Northeast. I live in Macomb, Ill., served as mayor for 12 years and have served on the Amtrak Board since 2008. I know first-hand that passenger rail brings economic value to cities and regions large and small.

Amtrak was created 50 years ago to connect America by rail, and remains the only entity that offers a comprehensive national rail network. Passenger rail safely moves people across the country to the places they want to go. For Amtrak to continue to play an important role in the national transportation network, it is critical to support infrastructure investments that will benefit the entire Amtrak network, state and commuter partners.

Safe and successful operations in the Northeast show the economic power of passenger trains. That network delivers people and economic value to more than 500 locations, including  McComb, Miss., (on the route of the daily City of New Orleans trains) and my city, Macomb, Ill., a “college town” more than 200 miles southwest of Chicago.

The Gateway Program is a series of Northeast Corridor projects with outsized regional and national economic significance. While most of the NEC features 4, 5, or even 6 tracks, the busiest section of the NEC relies on just two tracks that access Penn Station New York via a tunnel built in 1910 by the Pennsylvania Railroad. That tunnel is the lynchpin of the entire NEC, which supports 20 percent of America’s Gross Domestic Product. Gateway will inject billions of dollars into this compact space, doubling rail capacity, creating new jobs and modernizing the railroad for a new generation of intercity and commuter passengers. It is the foundation upon which future capacity increases can be built and since more trains means fewer carbon emissions, Gateway will deliver benefits that extend far beyond the local area. Gateway is a project worthy of support in New York and New Jersey, the East Coast and all of America.

Further south, the B&P Tunnel Replacement Program is a broad range of investments that will transform a four-mile section of the NEC in Baltimore, including the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel, a new ADA-accessible transit station, and the replacement of bridges, track and systems.

I bring a unique perspective to the issue of infrastructure. I’ve seen what Amtrak has done in making investments at our Chicago Union Station and in partnership with railroads and other agencies in the CREATE Program to unsnarl the Chicago rail network.  

Infrastructure investments will move Amtrak toward the future. Amtrak has a bold vision for the future of rail that includes investing in new equipment, reimagining stations, modernizing vital rail infrastructure, leveraging new technology, combating climate change and expanding service to enhance equity and mobility for more Americans.

This year marks Amtrak’s 50th anniversary and it is a moment of optimism and opportunity as we build for the future. Trains connect us — families, friends and businesses — from big cities to small towns, many of which don’t have any other public transportation connections to the rest of the country. In many urban areas, Amtrak and commuter trains share facilities with bus and light rail lines, making for seamless interconnected journeys.

Trains matter to America. And I believe the best is yet to come.

Tom Carper is an Amtrak Board member and former Mayor of Macomb, Ill.

Tags Gateway Program Northeast Corridor Rail transportation in the United States Tom Carper

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