Joined by acting Federal Railroad Administrator Jo Strang, as well as several members of Congress, Vice President Joe Biden announced Amtrak will receive $1.3 billion in grant funding from the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to expand passenger rail capacity, on Friday.
"Over 28 million passengers ride Amtrak each year. That’s about 500,000 passengers a week – or 80,000 a day,” said Vice President Biden. “For too long, we haven’t made the investments we needed to make Amtrak as safe, as reliable, as secure as it can be. That ends now. The funds in the Recovery Act for Amtrak will help create jobs and at the same time, repair and update critical needs of our nation’s infrastructure."
ARRA funding will roughly double the size of Amtrak’s capital investment program over a two-year period and be used to upgrade railroad assets and infrastructure, as well as capital projects that expand passenger rail capacity.
Among the improvement projects that will be undertaken are replacement of a major drawbridge on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), repairs to Amtrak facilities nationwide, the repair and return to service of nearly 70 stored and damaged passenger cars, and the rehabilitation of major elements of the NEC electrification system.
In addition to helping Amtrak achieve a state of good repair for its critical infrastructure and assets, the projects to be funded through the ARRA will result in tangible benefits to Amtrak’s passengers, including increased capacity (with fewer sold-out trains), improved operational reliability, and increased passenger comfort and accessibility at stations. Refurbished rolling stock that is returned to service may also be available for use on new State-supported routes.
The Vice President also noted that Amtrak’s hiring for ARRA projects represents a major investment not just in infrastructure, but also in the railroad’s employees. As a large portion of Amtrak’s skilled workforce nears retirement age, workers hired for ARRA projects will be trained and ready to step in to a long-term role on the railroad.
The economic recovery funds will be managed through a formal grant agreement between the FRA and Amtrak, consistent with ARRA transparency and accountability requirements, including those related to job creation, assisting those areas most impacted by the recession, making investments that increase economic efficiency and provide long-term economic benefits. The grant agreement will also ensure timely expenditure of the funding within two years and ensure that Amtrak complies with newly established financial, operational and customer service standards.