There is a good reason rail improvements make sense for economic stimulus. Boston.com makes the case perfectly.
Instead of new highways, which often enable unsustainable land development patterns, the policy should be “fix it first” – keeping existing roads and bridges in a state of good repair. The major infrastructure projects in any stimulus package should emphasize transit – bus systems, streetcars, light rail, and inter-city rail – and moving more freight capacity to rail as well.
Cities need help retrofitting older buildings for greater energy efficiency, replacing taxi fleets with hybrids, and updating antiquated water and wastewater systems. Former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis has noted that Amtrak is ready to go with up to $3 billion in system upgrades that would improve service, such as replacing bridges and old overhead catenary wires on the Acela line, or laying down double tracks to better coordinate passenger and freight service. Inter-city rail service around Chicago and Atlanta, and in California and Florida, could replace short-haul jet trips.