President Joe Biden celebrated Amtrak‘s 50th birthday Friday by calling for its routes to be expanded, including the creation of high speed rail service between Charlotte and Atlanta, and a significant increase in funding for the railroad.
More service: During a speech at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Biden touted his American Jobs Plan, which calls for an unprecedented $80 billion investment in rail, the lion’s share of which would benefit Amtrak. He also rattled off a list of new city pairs that could be created with that ambitious pot of money.
“Imagine a two-hour train ride between Atlanta and Charlotte going at speeds of 220 miles an hour,“ Biden said. “A two-and-a-half hour trip between Chicago and Detroit. Or faster and more regular trips between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a route that I imagine could be pretty popular on Fridays.”
He noted that these are some of the services he had hoped could be built years ago when, as vice president for President Barack Obama, he wrote the White House’s budget request for Amtrak.
Biden acknowledged Amtrak’s own ambitious plan that would serve up to 160 more communities, saying, “Think what it will mean for opportunity if we connect Milwaukee to Green Bay to Madison, Scranton and Allentown to New York, Indianapolis to Louisville and much, much more.“
“What this means is that towns and cities that have been in danger of being left out or left behind will be back in the game,“ he said.
Competing with China: Biden invoked the specter of competition with China, noting that it “already has 23,000 miles of high-speed rail at 220 miles per hour.”
“If we were able to straighten out three curves from Washington to New York, you could make it from Washington to New York in an hour and 32 minutes,“ he said. “Folks, there’s so much we can do. and it has such an incredibly positive impact on the environment, incredibly positive impact on work.“
Nostalgia: Biden also reflected on his estimated millions of miles riding Amtrak, which was his preferred way to commute to work when he was in Congress, and all the Amtrak workers he got to know.
“Amtrak wasn’t just a way of getting home,” he said. “It provided me, and I’m not joking, an entirely other family.”
He said he used to host a Christmas party for Amtrak employees but ended up having to make it a summer party “because family and retirees kept coming back“ and it became too big to hold inside.