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Biden champions Atlanta to Charlotte high-speed line at Amtrak’s 50th anniversary event

May 04, 2021

President Biden championed the idea of a high-speed line between Charlotte and Atlanta in remarks celebrating the 50th anniversary of Amtrak last week.

“Imagine a two-hour train ride between Atlanta and Charlotte going at speeds of 220 miles an hour,” Biden said at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. He added that “we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to position Amtrak and rail and inner-city rail . . . to play a central role in our transformation in transportation and economic future, to make investments that can help America get back on track.” 

Biden’s “American Jobs Plan” calls for $80 billion in funding for rail over eight years. The investments would “modernize the high traffic Northeast Corridor; improve existing corridors and connect new city pairs; and enhance grant and loan programs that support passenger and freight rail safety, efficiency, and electrification.”

The nod to a Atlanta-Charlotte line is notable because the corridor was the subject of a 2019 draft environmental impact study, jointly conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation. 

It analyzed three potential routes. The fastest trip would take just over two hours, and the line would serve more than 6 million passengers annually by 2050. It would have two stations in South Carolina, three in North Carolina, and five in Georgia. 

In response to the study, the Atlanta Journal Constitution published several reader responses.

One reader called the line “the perfect application for rail.” Another wrote that “we have just moved to Atlanta for retirement after living in France for 45 years. We are full believers in the importance (and comfort) of high-speed rail. It is one of the things that we will miss the most as a result of leaving Europe for the USA, and the American hesitation about it one of the most difficult things to understand.” 

Amtrak’s current Atlanta-Charlotte service takes roughly 5.5 hours. It’s slated for upgrades by 2035 under the “Connect US” plan, released in March. Roughly 160 towns and cities would get new service under the plan.

In addition to the Charlotte-Atlanta high-speed line, Biden singled out several other city pairs as promising opportunities for new or upgraded service. They include Chicago-Detroit, Los Angeles-Las Vegas, Green Bay-Madison, and Indianapolis-Louisville. 

“We need to remember: We’re in competition with the rest of the world,” Biden said. “People come here and set up businesses. People stay here . . . because of the ability to access transportation, access all the infrastructure. It’s what allows us to compete."

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