Today marks the one-year anniversary of the introduction of Amtrak”s Acela train service in the Northeastern United States. Similar to the high-speed trains found in Japan and much of Europe, Acela has a top speed of 150 miles per hour. When the Acela system becomes fully operational, its proponents calculate that it should generate over $300 million in revenue, a sum that would hopefully make the Amtrak system fiscally independent from the United States government by Dec. 2002.

Early next year the Reform Council is slated to give Congress a report on America”s railway program and some critics are already beginning to say that it will recommend that the Amtrak system be broken up and replaced with a more profitable option, one that will not require government subsidies. However, for Amtrak to remain a national service will be well worth the initial investment of repairing infrastructure.

Acela Express currently shaves little time off rail travel. If Acela is to meet its full potential, shaving hours off a trip instead of minutes, then much of the New England rail line will have to be replaced and built anew. The benefits of a swift rail connection between these cities and eventually between cities in other areas of the U.S., will far outweigh the initial investment that such repairs and replacements will require.

For this same reason a similar passenger rail system is held up in the Midwest. Indeed, such a high-speed line would be of tremendous interest to the many students at the University from the Chicago area, but again the status quo of a crumbling infrastructure negates that possibility. It is useless for Amtrak to develop high speed trains when it does not have the rails on which to run them. Completing the investment will not only help to connect major metropolitan areas economically but also has the potential to draw both domestic and foreign tourism.

The events of Sept. 11 have led many people to reevaluate their methods of travel. More and more people are growing frustrated with regular and significant security delays as well as time-consuming and frustrating (but necessary) searches. With the new time demands of travel, some are finding it in their interest to switch to alternatives such as Amtrak and when available, Acela. Congress should seize this new interest in Amtrak as an opportunity to save and promote America”s faltering passenger rail service. Funding for railway infrastructure repair would in the long run lead Amtrak to profitability as more and more travelers seek it as an effective alternative to the skies.

In the long run, repairs and additions to our nation”s railroads would not only ensure the long term viability of Amtrak, but also aid the students, families and business-people who ride Amtrak as well.

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