Amtrak Won’t Get $ 80 Billion In Funding, Have New Weapon Against Freight
- Biden’s revised $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure plan fails to give Amtrak the $ 80 billion originally promised.
- Passenger and freight rail transport will only get a combined $ 66 billion if the compromise proposal is passed.
- Amtrak could, however, take the freight railroads to court over disputes that caused long delays.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
New details of President Joe Biden’s revised infrastructure plan emerged following a compromise Thursday with Republicans in Congress. A total of $ 1.2 trillion in funding will be distributed if the bill passes Congress, up from the original $ 2 trillion, although some Republicans have already backed away from the plan.
Investments in the country’s railways are still a priority in the new plan, in large part due to the president’s former life as a senator commuting with Amtrak.
Read more: He’s talking to Biden. We spoke to him.
The White House maintains that the funding “will improve healthy and sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans by modernizing and expanding public transit and rail networks across the country while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” “.
“Amtrak is ready to support this vision of better transit,” an Amtrak spokesperson told Insider.
But the compromise comes with billions of dollars left at the station. Only $ 66 billion will go to combined passenger and freight rail projects instead of the $ 80 billion originally allocated to Amtrak.
The national rail provider quickly jumped aboard the infrastructure train in March and unveiled its “Amtrak Connects US” plan. New rail lines were envisioned and large cities without existing rail services like Phoenix and Nashville, Tennessee were promised connectivity to the national rail network. In particular, there was no investment in the high-speed train.
Parts of the plan can still be implemented as the infrastructure plan still represents “the biggest federal investment in passenger rail transportation since Amtrak’s inception,” according to the White House, but Amtrak’s key victory would be a new weapon in its arsenal against freight trains.
Amtrak trains outside of the Northeast Corridor run primarily on tracks owned by freight companies which, by law, are required to use Amtrak trains first. But this is not often the reality on American tracks, and long delays are often experienced by long-distance passenger trains.
If Amtrak can get enforceable laws to give it a leg up on Big Rail Freight, on-time performance on long-haul routes will improve. Fewer delayed trains could make the mode of travel a more reliable and consistent alternative to flying and driving, especially since Amtrak is spending $ 28 million on upgrading its Superliner and Viewliner train cars.
The House Transportation Committee of Representative Peter DeFazio is spearheading efforts to give Amtrak the right to petition federal courts to resolve disputes with freight companies.
“Right now, they have it however they want,” DeFazio said of the rail freight companies in an interview, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. “So we’re going to change the law and give Amtrak better access.”
Amtrak’s enthusiasm for the planned $ 80 billion investment has also not been wasted. States and communities across the United States, excited about the idea of a new rail service, were eager to work with Amtrak on new state-sponsored routes.
In Colorado, officials are working on building a new rail line along Interstate 25 in what’s known as the Front Range Corridor between Fort Collins and Pueblo, according to the Denver Post. Amtrak is also asking Congress to make it easier for states to obtain new services by not forcing them to pay the lion’s share of the bill, which the law currently requires.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari attributes the excitement to Amtrak finally going on the offensive instead of constantly having to defend itself and its spending.
Roger Harris, chief marketing and revenue officer at Amtrak, told Insider on June 15 that the $ 80 billion plan was “extremely ambitious” but that “even part of it would be revolutionary.”