News & Reviews News Wire President Biden announces $16.4 billion in funding for Northeast Corridor projects (updated)

President Biden announces $16.4 billion in funding for Northeast Corridor projects (updated)

By David Lassen | November 6, 2023

Frederick Douglass Tunnel, Hudson Tunnel, Susquehanna River Bridge among projects to receive federal backing

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Man speaking at podium with passenger car in background
President Joe Biden announces $16.4 billion in funding for Northeast Corridor projects on Monday, Nov. 6, at Amtrak’s Bear, Del., maintenance facility. Screenshot from White House video

BEAR, Del. — President Joe Biden announced that 25 Northeast Corridor projects will receive a total of $16.4 billion in funding in an appearance today at Amtrak’s maintenance facility in Bear, Del., near Wilmington.

The funding comes from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Pasenger Rail Program. It includes $4.7 billion for the Frederick Douglass Tunnel, the replacement for the 150-year-old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel in Baltimore; $2.1 billion toward replacement of the Susquehanna River Bridge between Havre de Grace and Perryville, Md.; $1.6 billion for the Penn Station Access project, which is rebuilding and expanding 19 miles of Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line to accommodate Metro-North Railroad commuter rail service for the first time; $827 million for the Connecticut River Bridge between Old Saybrook and Old Lyme, Conn.; and $3.8 billion for the Hudson River Tunnel project previously announced by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer [see “Hudson Tunnel project lands more federal funding …,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 4, 2023].

The money also includes funds for planning two studies on Northeast Corridor Improvements: one regarding increasing speeds between Washington and New York City, and one to address speed, resilience, performance, and capacity in Connecticut and Rhode Island. A White House fact sheet on the announcement is available here.

In announcing the funding, Biden said that a one-day shutdown of the Northeast Corridor would cost the U.S. economy $100 million, but decried the condition of much of the route.

“This line has tunnels and bridges that are over 100 years old … train stations that haven’t seen a major upgrade for generations; tracks in constant need of repair,” he said. “It has real consequences. This outdated infrastructure leads to over 4,000 hours of delays each year on Amtrak.” The projects, he said, will “reduce delays and speed up the trains along the Northeast Corridor.”

Amtrak has published a full list of the funded projects. In all, 12 of the projects will be led by Amtrak, including rehabilitation of the East River Tunnel, a $1.26 billion project to address damage from Hurricane Sandy. In addition to the Hudson Tunnel project, led by the multiparty Gateway Development Commission, and Penn Station access, led by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 11 other projects are led by other entities on the corridor: eight by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, two by NJ Transit, and one by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

“These grants will help advance Amtrak’s plans to modernize the Northeast Corridor and unlock major bottlenecks on the busiest passenger rail corridor in America,” Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said in a statement. “I want to thank President Biden, USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FRA Administrator Amit Bose for their continued support as Amtrak and our partners rebuild this critical infrastructure asset.”

Said Buttigieg, “These investments will make our busiest passenger railroad safer, faster, and more reliable, which means fewer delays and shorter commutes for the 800,000 passengers who rely on the Northeast Corridor every day.”

Additional information on each project is available here.

MTA CEO Janno Lieber welcomed the funds for the Penn Access project, saying in a statement, “This latest shot of federal funding for Metro-North Penn Access will help us get more out of existing infrastructure and will transform commutes for not only thousands of people living in transit-deprived areas of the East Bronx, but also for Amtrak customers who will benefit from the rebuilt Hell Gate Line.”

The projects funded closely reflect an inventory of needs on the Northeast Corridor cataloged by the FRA last year [see “FRA ‘Project Inventory’ prioritizes potential … grants,” News Wire, Nov. 18, 2022]. That inventory identified 15 “major backlog” projects priced at more than $10 billion; 13 of those projects are among included in today’s announcement, while a 14th, New Jersey’s Portal North bridge, is already funded with construction in progress.

— Updated at 5:05 p.m. CST with Biden comments, image from appearance at Bear, Del.; updated at 5:45 p.m. CST with comment from MTA CEO Janno Lieber.

Map of infrastructure projects on Northeast Corridor
A total of 25 projects on the Northeast Corridor will receive more than $16 billion in funding, according to an announcement today from President Joe Biden. The White House

39 thoughts on “President Biden announces $16.4 billion in funding for Northeast Corridor projects (updated)

  1. Hey Amtrak, 17% of the United States population lives in the NEC. There is another part of America away from the NEC and political beltline around Washington DC.

  2. Amtrak doesn’t make money, it will never make money, just as no other public mass transit makes money. Fed and state/local governments just have to decide at what level they want to fund transit projects. Most of the major projects that Amtrak now has funding for will be completed (hopefully) in the next 8-10 years. NEC ridership numbers are still below pre Covid numbers and 800,000 daily riders are not passing through Philly, Wilmington, over the Susquehanna river bridge or through the baltimore tunnels to Washington. That number applies to the NYC area. There will be alot of waste in the 16 billion.

  3. A lot of this money is in part replacing old infrastructure way over due so at least their will be decades of use on new tunnels and new bridges. So a lot easier to stomach. Like most Americans, clueless on Amtrak’s accounting and get more so every time I try to read and understand.

    Unfortunately I have much less faith in Amtrak’s Connect US plan and cringe on the thought what Amtrak decides on for the rest of their infrastructure pot. I see money thrown on expanding network with one and down daily’s to very small markets, think Scranton, Duluth, another IL/Iowa border town. so on.

    Instead, would love if the admin would ditch at least part of the Connect US plan and put it use a grant money to Brightline. Brightline could pretty much going to get you some great rail service to Tampa from Florida other large metro areas and on the cusp of getting rail service ever expanding Las Vegas to/from LA. Just getting something in their hands to continue the momentum in FL & kickstart CA/NV rail service will be huge. Heck, I bet Brightline could put together reasonable Texas Central build out if given a grant & if agreeable to allow Amtrak time slots – can see a pretty decent Houston/Dallas service with Amtrak offering extended/a legit mulit trips per day Heartland Flyer as a Houston/Dallas/Tulsa/KC corridor offering. But of course, that would require the administration to believe in the possibility of a huge public private rail opportunity in the three biggest states by population.

  4. Wouldn’t it be prudent to see that all 1930″s catenary from NYC to DC is replaced. Amtrak operates with 1930″s wire a good part of the way. Unreal.

    1. Unlike the army of consultants that want the PRR catenary replaced immediately if not sooner, Amtrak has a railroad to run using that catenary.

      The conclusion is that the PRR catenary is as reliable and easy to repair as the new technology. And it’s alrady in place.

      I doubt if too much of that wire is over 80 years old (1930’s); it DOES get regular maintenance.

    2. The section the covers almost the entirety of New Jersey has/is being retrofitted with CT so that is well in hand.

  5. “The money also includes funds for planning two studies on Northeast Corridor Improvements: one regarding increasing speeds between Washington and New York City, and one to address speed, resilience, performance, and capacity in Connecticut and Rhode Island…”

    How about a few hundred thousand to an outside accounting firm to provide a new accounting system that tells the real story of how much the NEC is really a subsidy by all the other states with Long Distance Passenger and State subsidized rail service.

    The NEC and The Long distance and State owned systems should be separated into separate operating companies so that those getting an “NEC deal” pay their own way as the rest of Amtrak has had to due for the last many years or so…

    1. The argument is that “advanced” countries have a single state entity running their pax rail lines. France SCNF does a more than reasonable job of keeping the whole thing running. My counter to that is the USA is roughly five times the population of France. As a matter of efficiency more localized control of operations would be better for everyone. Look at what Brightline is doing in Florida from a marketing perspective. How much of that would be approved in Washington if it were run by NRPC?

  6. It took me 24 hours to notice something —- the Long Bridge between DeeCee and NoVa isn’t included. So add that additional few billion.

    Biden/ Buttigieg throwing billions of dollars at projects from Batimore to Hartford gladdens a lot of hearts, but begs the question:– Just how far does 16.4 B’s go to meet the total costs? How much additional state and federal money will be needed?

    This is like the baseball stadium in Milwaukee. We were given an initial construction figure in 1996. But we weren’t told that 27 years later, MLB would stick us up for renovations costing three times the original construction.

    Or more to the point, it’s like New York’s Second Avenue subway. Yes, the people in Harlem need and deserve the project — proving the state, locals and feds cough up the billions and Harlem residents are told to wait a few more decades in addition to the past six decades of no progress.

    Once again as I posted below, I’m not opposed to any of these rail projects. What I want is transparency. From Boston and Sprinfield on the north, to Richmond on the south, how much will this end up costing. What would be the annual capital recovery, divided by the number of tickets sold.

    This is supposed to be a democracy and we are supposed to be given the facts and told the truth. Democracy? We more resemble the Soviet Union.

    1. The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority is the sponsor of the Long Bridge project between DC and Arlington. It takes the current double-track bridge and replaces ti with two double-track bridges, one freight and one passenger. There’s also a new bicycle-pedestrian bridge just because.

      It seems to be funded already so I don’t think it falls under this bill.

  7. Although we bemoan the declining importance of the NEC, how many Senators represent the states from Boston to DC? Throw in ME, NH an VA and therein is what keeps Amtrak around, but on a starvation budget and centered around the NEC. Even with all of these projects completed in some ten plus years we will still have higher speed rail. Both those in favor of and against the CAHSR project reason to complain.

    Meanwhile – thanks to PRIIA – CA, OR, WA, VA, NC, IL, WI, MI, MO, TX, OK and (soon MN) continue to subsidize the NEC overhead.

  8. That’s an excellent map (as Trains maps usually are) except that the Connecticut River Bridge Replacement belongs on the main map, over the H of “New Haven to Providence.” The river bends east on its way to the Sound.

  9. So when are “Amtrak” (really NEC) Joe and SecTrans Buttigieg going to visit Beech Grove and see all the stored, out of service equipment that Gardner and Richard Anderson took out of service and never brought back. And how about they visit Hialeah where some say Gardner and Anderson put Viewliner diners and sleepers away upon delivery and have never turned a wheel in revenue service?

    For sure, all the projects cited in this article need doing. They are long overdue. But as we know Amtrak is more, or at least was supposed to be more, than the NEC. Biden and Buttigieg have nary a word for the rest of the railroad. I’m not even sure Mr. Biden even knows Amtrak operates anywhere west or south of NEC. They sure don’t act and talk like it.

    1. Regarding stashed Viewliners at Hialeah, I am referring to the Viewliner 2s ordered by then Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman. I’m blanking on who the builder was.

      Regarding the maps that show the projects being funded, I am disgusted by the “New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study”. Anybody remember the FRA-blessed New London bypass initiative of the late 2000-teens? It called for a new line junctioning off the NEC at Old Saybrook and re-joining not far west of Providence. All the limited-stops Acelas were supposed to use it. And any here remember what happened? It got trashed by all the high-ranking CT Democrats led by those great liberal hopes, those men of the people, just ask ‘em they’ll tell ya’, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and then-Gov. Dannell Malloy. One writer even gave Blumenthal the lion’s share of the “credit” for stopping what was probably Amtrak’s last best hope of knocking off almost an hour of the running time for those passengers riding between NY and PVD/Boston. The new route would go near some small, high-end towns like East Lyme and those folks were up in arms. And Blumie didn’t want to lose their votes. So good transportation policy went out the window. I cite this because had that new line been built and all the trains operating non-stop between NHV and PVD moved to it, capacity issues on the Shore Line would have been greatly reduced even with the addition of trains making selected intermediate stops.

    2. Yeah,, but what about all the planners who would have nothing to do at twice market value. This is just another Joe Biden “make work” project that won’t accomplish anything, as you have pointed out.

  10. All the states served by the NEC (Wash-Bos) have transit agencies. RI has MBTA operate its service; Del has SEPTA operate its. The rest operate their own.
    Suburban fares are usually much lower than Amtrak’s although the state agency has to pay Amtrak for the use of the RR.

    The curve at Frankford Jct. (“SHORE”) is actually an S-curve paired with a curve at “FORD.” Both exist from the 1850’s or earlier, connecting older RR’s.

    The NEC is Amtrak’s owned flagship. That said, a Federal agency should not be funding only the NEC. It should serve as many of the continental states as possible.

  11. The Northeast Corridor is profitable. Or, maybe almost profitable. Oh, it covers most of its costs. Whatever.

    Unless of course you consider capital recovery. (But that’s in a different budget so it doesn’t count as real money.)

    1. Doesn’t the fact that they’re getting $16.4B for deferred maintenance prove the line is NOT profitable?

    2. DANIEL ….

      I can’t calculate the capital recovery, because I don’t know the total capital costs. Those 16.4 B’s are just a part, maybe a relativey small part. Captal costs are in as many different budget pockets as possible, so that no one will ever know the true amount.

      Add to capital recovery to the operating subsidy, per rider. There will be your answer.

      As I have posted in the recent past, I’m NOT against subsidized public transportation. It benefits me as I ride Amtrak now and then. My point is, let’s have a transparent answer as to how much public transit costs compared to how much the rider pays. If for example someone in the future rides New Jersey Transit through the new Hudson tunnels and over the new Portal Bridge, say New York Penn to New Brunswick, and pays, say, $18 for the ride, how much does it really cost.

    3. NEC is also a tangible showcase for North American passenger rail transportation.

      Dr. Güntürk Üstün

    4. Charles, you are completely correct. NRPC’s finances are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. What is known is that nine-out-of-ten NEC passengers are not riding Amtrak. A complex history of Federal involvement stopping just short of direct control of commuter trains is legend. Ergo we arrive at big todos such as today where the POTUS talks about Amtrak and union jobs with no mention that the bulk of these investments will benefit commuter trains. Yes, the commuters should have this but we should also have transparency.

    5. Reference your capital cost for the New Jersey transit passenger. You would need to know how many passengers will use the route over the life of the system. Not to mention maintenance and repair costs

    6. GEORGE — Capital recovery is the ANNUAL cost of carrying a capital expense … so it’s posted against ANNUAL revenue.

    1. The number one, two and three states by population are NOT in the northeast. And someday when Uncle Joe is no longer in office Amtrak’s political relevance will continue to decline. Meanwhile, private investment in one of those top three states is filling the void.

    1. Speed limit at Frankford Junction is 50 mph. For the S curve at Elizabeth, New Jersey, it is officially 80 mph, but because of signalling issues it is effectively 55mph. [In both cases my source is Wikipedia.]

    2. Pretty sure the body count is higher at Frankford Jct. than Elizabeth. The PRR went so far as acquiring land to ease the curve and raise the speed at Frankford Jct. They also had plans for a new B&P Tunnel and left space for two other Hudson River tubes (since impinged by the city). In other words, just continue with what our forefathers started and it’ll work out just fine. No need to reinvent the flanged wheel in an attempt to show the world how smart you are.

  12. While the rest of us have to make the best of the 30 -40 year old ever shrinking pool of Superliner & Horizon cars well past their prime which is causing daily delays on LD routes & new experimental locomotives that can’t handle the elements. Those opposed to the CA HSR should be even more outraged by this expenditure at least the HSR is intended to eventually connect the whole state & possibly extend beyond. Its a testing ground for a concept which has been and still is blocked by dominant special interest groups. If the NE population is so dependent on this rail service they should have been collecting a ticket tax for decades prior to this to fund this “essential” transportation mode but instead find it cheaper to get the rest of the country to comp it for them.

    1. The generic comment about the Northeast Corridor has some merit. However, I object to dating it to 1965. A more appropriate year may be 1971, with the commencement of AMTRAK. In 1965, the corridor belonged to the Pennsylvania Railroad, and passenger car upgrades were past due. The corridor was one of the few profitable routes of the railroad, and the company had spent its meagre profits on converting its locomotives to diesel and upgrading the passenger equipment on its mostly money-losing long distance runs. Further, the funds from the High Speed Transportation Act of 1965 did not cover all the Metroliner costs. The Pennsylvania Railroad contributed a fair share.

    2. Yes but when PRR replacement PC when feet up the public investment was put in peril with Congresscritters at the very real risk of egg on their faces for investing the public dollar in a losing proposition. That led to nationalization of pax trains at the corridor level and up (excluding commuters) and a battle cry of “save the NEC at all costs.” 50+ years on NOTHING has changed.

    3. My only point was that the start date shouldn’t be 1965 or any date when the Pennsylvania Railroad owned the line. As far as I am concerned Penn Central has its own history [of mostly disasters] (with admittedly the start point being during the merger negotiations).

    4. Ah, where to start. We could point to the WPA loan in 1934 for $77M ($1.7B in 2023) to complete the electrification during the Depression as when the camel got his nose in the tent. Or 1965 when PRR received AND expended monies to curry favor with the LBJ admin to get their PC merger (good money after bad). Or 1976 with the ConRail formation and control ceded to NRPC and start of the NECIP, Never Ending Crisis In Progress. Over 90 years of our money going to the Nothing Else Counts.

  13. Gardner = sycophant. Congress appropriates the funds. If it hadn’t been for key members of the House and Senate, the bill for these projects would not have reached the president for signature.

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