DC-Boston Amtrak corridor receives $16 billion in federal aid

By | November 6, 2023

President Biden announced Monday $16 billion in new funding for Amtrak and other agencies to revamp rail bridges, tunnels and stations on the busy passenger corridor between Washington and Boston, part of an overhaul of the service funded by the two-year-old infrastructure law.

About half the money will be split between two infrastructure modernization projects that are more than a century old: the Frederick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore is awaiting $4.7 billion and the Hudson River Tunnel between New Jersey and New York will receive up to $3.8 billion.

The rail appeared as a big winner of the 2021 infrastructure law, supported by a president whose regular train trips earned him the nickname “Amtrak Joe.” Congress has approved tens of billions of dollars in funding to modernize a passenger network that lags behind that of many European and Asian countries, even as some lawmakers have criticized the administration for being too focused on the North-East, where the majority of rail passengers live. This comes as a transportation funding bill being considered by House Republicans would do so. reduce some rail funding.

Northeast’s century-old rail bridges and tunnels to get $9 billion overhaul

Of the 25 projects announced by the White House that will receive funding, Amtrak will receive about $10 billion, with the rest shared by states and transit agencies that help maintain the corridor. Some of the money is available now while others are promised for future budget years.

The projects include up to $2.1 billion to replace the Susquehanna River Bridge in Maryland, $1.6 billion to upgrade rail lines in New York and $827 million to replace a bridge over the Connecticut River.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, we are finally making the generational investments in passenger rail that Americans have wanted for years, including modernizing the nation’s busiest rail corridor,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a press release.

Amtrak officials say construction on the projects is expected to be completed over five to 15 years, while the White House has said the investments will provide faster and more reliable service. The Baltimore tunnel, for example, will allow trains to travel up to 180 km/h on a section where the speed is limited to 30 km/h.

It is planned to reduce travel time between Washington and New York by 30 minutes, as well as the same reduction between New York and Boston. The White House said the new infrastructure could cut delays by almost half.

President Biden will travel to the town of Bear in his home state of Delaware on Monday to meet with Amtrak workers and deliver a speech on funding.

Amtrak was hit hard by the spread of the corona virus but it has exceeded pre-pandemic passenger numbers since the summer, saying the new funding will fuel more growth.

“These grants will help advance Amtrak’s plans to modernize the Northeast Corridor and unblock key bottlenecks on America’s busiest passenger rail corridor,” said Stephen Gardner, Chief Executive Officer. of Amtrak, in a press release.

In addition to tackling aging infrastructure, Amtrak also plans to roll out a fleet of faster trains manufactured in a factory in upstate New York.

The money announced Monday comes on top of billions in other funding previously announced across the Northeast. The Hudson River Tunnel is part of a broader overhaul of connections between New York and New Jersey, known as the Gateway, and is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country. In total, the federal government has committed $11 billion for the tunnel, and related projects are expected to receive additional funds.

On Friday, Buttigieg joined New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to mark the start of construction of the long-planned tunnel.

“For 30 years, Americans, travelers, businesses and workers have been hoping for this day,” Hochul said. “But years of inaction, excuses, delays and infighting are finally over. We now herald a new era in which we will not work against each other, but work together to achieve great things.

The infrastructure program devotes $66 billion to the rail sector. This could enable the largest expansion in Amtrak’s 50-year history.

The New York project is the target of Republicans, blocked for years by a dispute between its sponsors and the Trump administration. Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Republican leader of the committee that oversees rail transportation, said money from the infrastructure law was not intended to “fill the money hole in the Gateway program.”

“The Biden administration continues to unfairly divert taxpayer dollars from the majority of the country to bloated, off-budget projects in the blue state,” Cruz said in a statement.

Amtrak plans to use funding from the infrastructure law to expand its service outside of its Northeast Corridor mainlines. The administration plans to announce funding for a separate rail program targeting other parts of the country before the end of the year.

The rail network plan expects to reach 160 new communities across the country, attracting up to 20 million additional passengers. Supporters say Amtrak has failed to keep up with population growth, leaving its service map virtually unchanged over its half-century history as metropolitan areas have exploded in states like Texas and Florida .

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