Let Tourists Fund Rail Infrastructure
Rail tourism isn’t exactly a national sensation, but it should be. Travel by rail can be a vacation in itself; it’s a more fuel-efficient way to see the country than taking a road trip; and it’s safer than just about any other means of traveling. But making a given route tourist-friendly also means that private companies are refurbishing lines that politicians aren’t able or willing to.
The best example of this infrastructure win-win is the Alaska Railroad Corporation, probably best known for its Denali Star route, from from Anchorage to Fairbanks. But the success of that and other tourist-packed lines, as well as partnerships with various cruise lines, has allowed the company to not only seek federal funding for regional improvements (such as two major track extensions currently underway), but to use its own money on capital investments. In 2013 alone, ARRC spent $14.3M on track rehabilitation and other projects not eligible for grants. This level of prosperity and reinvestment isn’t possible in every part of the country, but ventures like Pullman Rail Journeys, which offers an intimate, retro-inspired ride from Chicago down to New Orleans, could inject much-needed cash into America’s most scenic mode of transportation.
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