The Passenger Rail Revival Is Here

For the first time in decades, multiple rail projects are moving forward that could have a transformative impact on train travel in the United States.

1 minute read

May 21, 2024, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Acela train at Wilmington station in Wilmington, Delaware.

An Amtrak Acela train at a station in Wilmington, Delaware. | Bo / Adobe Stock

Passenger rail is — finally — making headway in the United States, writes Daniel C. Vock in Route Fifty,  with multiple major projects around the country reaching key milestones in recent weeks, thanks in part to a major boost from the 2021 infrastructure law. 

“But money is only one obstacle to building a cross-country network of passenger rail services that people can rely on in addition to driving or flying from one city to another. Freight railroads own almost all of the track in the country, and Amtrak or other passenger carriers have to coordinate with them to add more service,” Vock points out. For that reason, many of the most successful rail projects happening currently use dedicated rail lines that don’t conflict with freight operations.

Vock highlights some important successes, such as a $2 billion federal investment in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, new funding for Colorado’s proposed Front Range line, and plans for renewed service along the Gulf Coast, where damage from Hurricane Katrina ended rail service almost two decades ago. Other positive developments include a study that could lead to the return of passenger rail to southern Montana and increased service between St. Paul and Chicago.

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