Amtrak’s ‘Connect US’ Expansion Plans: Things to Know

Amtrak Expansion Map

Amtrak released an expansion map in April 2021 based on potential infrastructure funding from the US government. Funding would create over 30 new routes, increase service and pay for repairs (view the fact sheet). Here are top things to know about the expansion plans:

More than 10 states get new Amtrak stations

States including Wyoming, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Arizona get new Amtrak stations in the proposed infrastructure plan. However, South Dakota will remain without Amtrak rail service.

Major cities in Tennessee get rail connections

Currently Amtrak only travels in the western part of Tennessee, with Memphis the biggest city with a station. A proposed new route would stop in Nashville and Chattanooga, with direct service to Atlanta, Macon and Savannah. In Savannah, transfers to the Silver Meteor, Silver Star and Palmetto would be options to reach cities along the East Coast.

Colorado gets a regional Amtrak route

Multiple Amtrak stations will be added in Colorado for regional travel if the expansion plan is implemented. A north/south line would stop in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins and Cheyenne, Wyoming. In Denver, passengers could transfer to the California Zephyr for travel to the West Coast and Midwest by train.

Rail service returns to Las Vegas, Nevada and Columbus, Ohio

Las Vegas, Nevada and Columbus, Ohio are the two largest cities (by population size) that currently do not have Amtrak service. Gambling and nightlife lovers will be able to board a train in Los Angeles to reach Las Vegas in the proposed plan. In the Midwest, Columbus will also get rail service. Residents will be able to travel to Cleveland (connections to Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited routes) and to Cincinnati (connection to the Cardinal train).

Heartland Flyer Amtrak route will be extended

If all goes as planned, the Heartland Flyer, which travels between Texas and Oklahoma, will expand to Wichita and Newton Kansas in the north and Austin and San Antonio Texas in the south. This change will connect the Heartland Flyer with the Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited routes that travel to cities including Los Angeles, New Orleans and Chicago.

Atlanta and North Carolina residents can travel to the coast

Atlanta residents were once able to travel to Savannah, Georgia multiple times a day by train, but that hasn’t been the case for many years. One of the proposed new routes will give city residents access to the ocean once again, although you’ll have to rent a car or use rideshare services to reach the beach and Savannah Historic District from the Savannah Amtrak station.

Additionally, plans call for a new station in Wilmington, North Carolina, which will be the closest Amtrak station to the North Carolina coast. This route will have direct service to and from Raleigh, Salisbury, Greensboro and potentially Asheville.

Houston and Dallas get connected

Houston and Dallas get connected by Amtrak train in the Connect US plan, with a stop at Bryan–College Station in between the two. There is also a Texas bullet train, called the Texas Central Railway, in progress, which will also connect Dallas and Houston.

More Florida rail service

In Florida, more service will be added along the existing Silver Star and Silver Meteor routes, making it easier to travel between cities in Florida. Currently there is limited service due to the pandemic, but starting June 7, 2021, the normal two trains per day in each direction resumes. However, with the infrastructure plan funding, this frequency will increase, making day trips doable between cities such as Miami and Tampa, Tampa and Orlando, and Jacksonville and Orlando.

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