I am posting early because as you read this Friday morning, I will be somewhere on that great American nightmare known as I-95. It is still early in the season, of course, but in another month, I-95 will take up its summer job and become a parking lot of stalled traffic all along the Northeast Corridor.
The President has proposed increased funding for high-speed rail. This should have been done twenty years ago. Throughout Europe, you can get from one major city to the next by train, and it is often as fast as air travel between the same destinations. America’s trains can go faster than they do; the problem is with the tracks. As I have written previously, because trains were a nineteenth century technology, before the income tax, the railroads themselves own their lines and they lack the money to update them. Drivers do not own the roads and airlines do not own the airports. Only rail companies own their lines and the President should think about buying them and upgrading them. It is a huge infrastructure project of the kind that puts people to work while improving both the environment and the quality of life.
There is another project, related but distinct, that I should like to propose: Car-trains. When I catch the ferry from New London to Long Island, I drive my car onto it, ride across the Sound, and get off at Orient Point to continue on to my destination. This solves the inter-modal problem for ferries. Amtrak should build car-trains that work the same way. It is no problem taking a high-speed train to New York City. You get off at Penn Station and grab a cab or get on the subway. But, in the summertime, when vacationers are heading to more remote and rural locales, Cape Cod or New Hampshire or Maine, they need to take their cars because there are so few, if any, inter-modal connectors at the train termini. You get off the Amtrak train, high speed or otherwise, at New London, Connecticut and you need a car because there is no taxi service, no bus service, etc. If there were car-trains, you could disembark your family and your car in New London and then drive on to that nice little B&B in Stonington or Old Lyme.
I suspect that the manufacturers of railcars could devise plans for these trains easily. They are common in Europe. And, building them would employ many people. It would certainly make I-95 easier to traverse in the summertime. Already I can close my eyes and taste the steamers at the Water Street Café in Stonington, Connecticut. I just wish I did not have to endure the I-95 nightmare to get there.