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If a Transcontinental Railroad were Built Today

By | March 19, 2019

Enjoy a fun look at what it would look like today if the United States embarked on building a transcontinental railroad

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Union Pacific transcontinental railroad construction crew
Union Pacific transcontinental railroad construction crew
Construction crews working westward on the Union Pacific encountered rough going when they reached Utah’s Weber Canyon.
Trains collection

If you built a transcontinental railroad today from scratch, how long would it take, given the regulatory environment of the modern world? Nobody knows for sure, but the best guess is about 57 years. Here’s a look at how it might just play out in headlines:

Jan. 1, 2019    Trump proposes transcontinental railroad
Jan. 2, 2019    Federal court enjoins railroad plan
Dec. 12, 2022    Supreme Court OKs new railroad
Jan. 16, 2023    Environmental study will take 10 years
July 30, 2033    Environmental study raises emissions concerns
Aug. 1, 2033    EPA moves against rail line, citing emissions
Feb. 13, 2040    President proposes electrification of new railroad
June 14, 2044    Electrification financing collapses
March 2, 2054    GOP Congress: No federal money for new rail line
March 2, 2056    Democratic Congress: No federal money for new rail line
Aug. 17, 2060    President Jenna Bush declares new railroad dead
Nov. 24, 2062    China will finance transcontinental railroad
April 30, 2064    Railroad groundbreaking!
May 1, 2065    EPA sues to stop construction
Oct. 31, 2066    Congress abolishes EPA
Nov. 1, 2066    Construction resumes
Nov. 2, 2067    Sierra Club sues to stop new rail line
July 24, 2068    Sierra Club settlement truncates railroad at Reno, Nev.
June 10, 2071    Bald eagle nest stops construction
April 20, 2074    Eagle nest mysteriously destroyed by fire
Feb. 21, 2075    Last Interstate highway crumbles
May 8, 2076    Transcontinental railroad completed in Utah

Interested in learning more about the history of the Transcontinental Railroad? You’ll find it in our special issue, available online.

5 thoughts on “If a Transcontinental Railroad were Built Today

  1. This sounds like the fiasco surrounding the rebuilding of the Lackawanna Cutoff in New Jersey – and this first stage is only 7.25 miles. It was ‘supposed’ to be finished in 2016…

  2. Not only does this current day rendition sound like a fiasco, you have to realize Trump isn’t smart enough to propose such a feat. Thank God for our forefathers. This site deserves to be commissioned as a National Park. Second only to Independence Hall.

  3. The way Amtrak is constructing the platform in La Plata, MO indicates how construction costs have gone out of control The contractor has worked for a year on a simple platform about 200 feet long. Someone is scamming Amtrak. Obviously Amtrak has no one watching over their work. Just imagine how much the transcontinental would cost.

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