Airlines And Commercial Railroad Companies Have Issue With Amtrak’s Expansion Plans And The Majority Of Conservatives In Tennessee Consider It A Waste Of Taxpayer Money.
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Published April 15, 2021
Legislators are gearing up to work together with Amtrak to install new passenger train routes across Tennessee.
President Joe Biden has released a proposed plan that would allocate $80 billion dollars for the National Railroad Passenger Corp, known commonly as Amtrak.
With this in mind, Amtrak has presented a proposal to expand their tracks, enhance routes, and provide upgraded trains as they expand nationally. They will focus on the southeast – including Tennessee, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, and Texas.
The initial steps for Tennessee include a route from Nashville to Savannah with stops in Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and others.
States involved in the expansion will have to come up with a portion of the costs for any expenses that are not covered by the sale of tickets.
Representative Jason Powell, a Democrat out of Nashville, sees potential in the plan and hopes to present a bill that would look into the state’s share of the costs of Amtrak service and would outline just what such a plan would cost taxpayers.
“I think there’s a tremendous economic upside for Nashville and the State of Tennessee to have Amtrak service connecting us to other parts of the southeast and the country,” said Powell. “I’ve always been very optimistic and bullish on expanding passenger rail.”
Governor Lee and state transportation officials have been hearing Amtrak’s proposals since last year. Regional planners note that the expanded railway would provide the state with connections to a national network that could stimulate economic growth for Tennessee.
“The board met recently with Amtrak officials,” said Michael Skipper, executive director of the Greater Nashville Regional Council. “Area mayors and transportation officials who serve on the Greater Nashville Regional Council’s Transportation Policy Board have been collaborating for years on how best to improve transportation options for Middle Tennesseans and to help grow our shared economy.”
Skipper also notes that many states are already teaming up with Amtrak for the expansion.
“We haven’t studied any Amtrak cost proposals as of yet,” Skipper said. “We do know that metro areas and states across the U.S. have decided that it is worth the investment.”
The expansion doesn’t come without some opposition. Both airlines and commercial railroad companies have issue with Amtrak’s plans.
Amtrak could have to share CSX Transportation lines that are already overcrowded.
“Our host railroads are required by law to provide Amtrak trains dispatching preference over their own freight trains,” said Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn. “Unfortunately, this requirement is not consistently honored and ‘freight train interference’ is the largest source of delay.”
Representative Powell says airlines are much less interested in the smaller, local routes proposed by Amtrak.
“Airlines have opposed the expansion of Amtrak but that’s shifted because the airlines make a lot more money on longer-distance flights,” Powell said. “I have heard from a lot of constituents excited by Amtrak and the possibility of expanding passenger rail in Nashville.”
However, the majority of conservatives in Tennessee consider the expansion a waste of money.
Winfred Gray says, “Out of touch, out of control and out of their minds. What kind of idiot would even consider wasting money on such an outdated mode of transportation that no one would even use?”
One Tennessee Conservative reader states that, “Amtrak has lost money since its inception. It’s subsidized by taxpayers, who overwhelmingly will never use it. Just to break even, it would have to charge rates that no one want to pay. Americans love their autos, and liberals hate that.”
Not all major Tennessee cities are on the list for the rail service expansion. Some say it is because of a lack of local support.
According to Knoxville spokesperson Eric Vreeland, “An Amtrak connection isn’t an issue that’s been raised much in community discussions so far, so there’s no good gauge right now on community interest. But the White House’s proposed federal infrastructure investment and how it could upgrade Amtrak service may very well generate more discussion locally.”