Revitalizing Railways: Biden Announces $16.4 Billion Boost for Faster and Better Passenger Trains

  • by:
  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 11/06/2023
President Joe Biden, who has been a vocal supporter of Amtrak, is advocating for improvements in the speed and efficiency of train services. The Northeast Regional corridor is set to receive a significant boost in funding from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, with the administration allocating a substantial amount of $16.4 billion towards this endeavor. This investment aims to address and improve various aspects of the corridor's infrastructure.

The president has a strong interest in trains. During a recent call with reporters, Mitch Landrieu, senior advisor to the president and White House infrastructure coordinator, expressed his belief in the significant enhancement of America's passenger rail system. Landrieu emphasized the individual's extensive knowledge of the Northeast Corridor, highlighting their unique expertise in this particular region. This announcement coincided with the introduction of a substantial amount of funding aimed at further improving the country's rail infrastructure.

The Biden administration plans to allocate the billions of dollars towards 25 passenger rail projects on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. This corridor stretches from Boston to Washington, DC and is responsible for accommodating approximately 260 million passengers annually. Several projects have been selected to receive funding. These projects include the construction of a new tunnel in Baltimore, the extension of Metro-North service through New York's Penn Station, and the replacement of a bridge in Connecticut.

According to the administration, the proposed improvements are expected to enhance the speed of trains. The replacement of the Connecticut River Bridge will result in an increase in train speeds on the bridge, specifically from 45 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour. Expanding Metro-North access in New York to Penn Station has the potential to significantly reduce commuting times for certain individuals. According to the administration's estimates, the implementation of the new service is expected to reduce the transit time from the Bronx to Manhattan by a significant margin of up to 50 minutes.

According to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, prior to President Biden assuming office, the allocation of funds by federal, state, and local governments for rail infrastructure was significantly lower, approximately 1%, compared to the amount allocated for roads. This disparity in funding has resulted in observable consequences. The current situation is being modified.

The recent injection of funds follows the allocation of $66 billion by the bipartisan infrastructure law for the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak. This allocation is being hailed as the most significant investment in passenger rail since the establishment of Amtrak in 1971.

Amtrak's performance in terms of punctuality and velocity falls short compared to other nations. According to a report by the European Commission on the rail market, the average punctuality for regional and local passenger services in the European Union rail system was 88.7% in 2020. In 2020, a significant portion of Amtrak trains, specifically 80%, adhered to their scheduled arrival and departure times. However, as time progressed and we reached the year 2022, this percentage experienced a decline, dropping to 74%. The Northeast Corridor experienced a relatively better performance, as 79% of the trains on this route were reported to be on time.

In 2020, the former CEO of Amtrak, Bill Flynn, provided testimony regarding the Northeast Corridor Commission's estimation of a repair backlog exceeding $40 billion for the route. According to his statement, Amtrak and commuter passengers on the NEC bear the burden of the costs and face the challenges associated with relying on infrastructure that was not originally designed to meet the demands of the present day.

Following the successful enactment of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Amtrak has put forth an extensive expansion proposal. This plan aims to enhance Amtrak's accessibility by extending its reach to nearly all major cities, with particular emphasis on regions in the West and South that are presently lacking adequate service.

Passenger rail and other infrastructure priorities have been the target of numerous funding reduction efforts by congressional Republicans. In early November, the House is scheduled to vote on a transportation funding bill that could have significant implications for Amtrak. If passed, the bill would result in a reduction of approximately $1.5 billion in funding for Amtrak, which represents a substantial 64% decrease in the rail system's annual federal funding.

However, there are certain Republicans who come from the Northeast corridor and have raised concerns regarding the significant reductions in funding for Amtrak. As a result, the vote on the matter has been postponed.

According to Rep. Marc Molinaro, a New York Republican, the Northeast Amtrak corridor stands out as one of the few routes that generates profit. Additionally, it serves as a crucial transportation route for commuters across the Northeast region, particularly in the Hudson Valley and upstate New York. Commuter rail, like many other forms of public transportation, often relies on taxpayer support in the form of subsidies. Responsible spending is a principle that many individuals support, as it promotes wise financial decisions and prudent allocation of resources. However, it is worth noting that the proposed reductions under consideration are quite substantial in nature.

The CEO of Amtrak has issued a warning regarding the potential consequences of the proposed Republican cuts. According to the CEO, if these cuts are approved, the rail system would be compelled to take drastic measures such as significantly reducing or even suspending service on multiple routes. Additionally, essential repairs would be halted as a result.

According to Landrieu, there is a collective effort to develop high-quality passenger rail services that will have positive impacts on communities across the country. The main objectives of this endeavor are to enhance the safety, efficiency, and convenience of existing rail systems. Under the guidance of this President, there is a strong determination to accomplish the task at hand.


Get latest news delivered daily!

We will send you breaking news right to your inbox

© 2024 Wayne Dupree, Privacy Policy