Among modern presidents, it’s fair to say that Biden has no parallels for his love of trains. He commuted between Delaware and Washington, DC, every day during his 36 years in the Senate. He started his first run for the White House in 1988 standing in the back of a train and even took a train ride through Ohio and Pennsylvania after that chaotic first general election debate last year. . During the 2020 convention, one of the bio videos the organizers put together focused on Biden’s relationship with Amtrak workers.
All of this made last week’s speech more exciting for rail fans like Cupper, Goldfeder and Shughart. If ever a president was going to launch a truly historic rail policy, this would be it. But Biden has never really spoken about the amount of money he is offering for rail investments (although the three men know from previous reports that there will be $ 80 billion for Amtrak, upgrading the northern corridor. -est and $ 85 billion for other existing public transport). In fact, his comments on the rail were rather brief.
As Biden left the desk, Goldfeder pulled out his yellow legal pad of notes he had taken during the speech. “I noticed the first thing he mentioned when he went into details, the railways were mentioned first. And he said something quite striking, ”he said. “He’s talking about a high-speed passenger train from coast to coast. It is rather breathtaking.
But not everyone is sold. Shughart, a rail consultant stepped in, “He’s not going to build a high-speed train from coast to coast with this money.”
“Well,” Cupper added, “he’s really talking about the high speed available coast to coast in certain hallways.”
It just got deeper from there. They had no illusions that rail was going to be the biggest chunk of the $ 2 trillion bill. They recognized that it was less than the portion of roads and bridges. Goldfeder said “the word ‘enough’ hardly ever applies [to rail]. But he added that the $ 80 billion is “certainly a significant start.”
Cupper said, “Let’s talk about the next 50 years for Amtrak. They never had the funding to do what they need. Highways have always had a tax on gasoline, airports have a dedicated funding source, but Amtrak has never had dedicated funding [federal subsidy]. ”
Still, it seems they’re just happy to be having the party, after two presidencies without enough focus or follow-through on infrastructure. It’s a party that Shugart made with his life. His obsession started with curiosity, “always wondering where this train is going, what it is carrying, the mystery of it. That just a few people can move 10,000, 15,000 tonnes of stuff is just great. That you can harness so much power.
He started working for a railroad company that downsized after 9/11, but found a consultant position and has since done so. Speaking with Cupper and Goldfeder, Shughart said it was “powerful” to hear Biden lean on this bipartisan story of rail support.
By the end of the conversation, Cupper, Goldfeder, and Shughart were mesmerized. They log off with the new information on Biden’s plans and cross their fingers that the administration can make a part of it.
Shughart also sent the other two (and this reporter) all the information they needed to sign up for his trip to Argentina. The other two men seemed rather interested. Even if Biden’s bill doesn’t come true, they’ll have to wait that out.