Transit advocates often consider air-to-rail connections as an essential piece of a functioning public transportation system. What happens when this view is applied to Amtrak? Most airports have next to no interaction with the national intercity passenger railroad. Just two (Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey and our very own Bob Hope Airport) have direct access to an Amtrak station, with a third in Miami (pictured at left) on the way. 39 other large and mid-sized airports have Amtrak service within 10 miles. Even though air-to-rail connections provide substantial travel and environmental benefits, no dedicated funding source for the development of such connections exist at the federal level. Locally, Los Angeles Times readers express mixed opinions on a planned rail connection to LAX.
While everyone acknowledges that the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor is in dire need of upgrades, the federal government remains hesitant to find the money that can make such upgrades happen. While fiscal conservatism is partly responsible for the current state of affairs, the staggering price tag just for mild capacity increases, at $52 billion, would give anyone pause. A full-fledged upgrade to true HSR-level service would cost $117 billion, according to Amtrak. Federal lawmakers and pundits believe that contributions from all levels of government as well as an infusion of private capital will be the only reasonable way to make the NEC a state-of-the-art facility.