The remarkable passage of the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will give a much-needed jump start to addressing infrastructure inefficiencies. Amtrak, one of the direct beneficiaries of the IIJA, will be a recipient of up to $66 billion in grants for rail projects and fleet acquisition. William J. Flynn, Amtrak’s Chief Executive Officer stated this boost “represents more funds than have been cumulatively invested in Amtrak over the first 50 years of our history” [i]. Amtrak’s current plan for the grants is to utilize $22 billion for fleet acquisition and the remainder $44 billion for rail projects to include new routes.
Amtrak was created 42-years ago as America’s Commuter Railroad by the Congressional Rail Passenger Service Act on May 1, 1971. This act consolidated the U.S.’s existing 20 passenger railroads into one. This new railroad would be capable of serving 43 continental U.S. states with a total of 21 routes at that time. 42 years later, Amtrak’s passenger rail system extends to 46 states with 500 destinations on 33 routes [ii]. As part of its service, it operates high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston that run as fast as 150 mph in some sections. This current reach allows Amtrak to serve up to 31.7 million passengers and bring in up to $3.4 billion in revenue.
Amtrak published Connect US, a report detailing their 15-year vision for a $75 billion investment to meet the existing repair backlog, improve stations, replace rolling stock (train sets), add new routes, and modernize the Northeast Corridor [iii]. This report and a letter to the Members of Congress, on May 26th of this year, were instrumental in providing legislative direction to the IIJA funds. With the allocated $66 billion of IIJA funds and with the help of other funding agents, Amtrak will exceed its initial requirements of $75 billion for its 15-year vision.
Of the $66 billion, Amtrak states that it looks to use $22 billion for replacing forty percent of its aging train sets by 2031 as some sets are forty-five years old. Amtrak is currently contracted with Siemens Mobility for $83 million at a total of $7.8 billion over ten years.
Amtrak’s goal is to utilize the remaining $44 billion to expand corridor passenger rail service in 20 states and bring new corridor passenger rail service to 16 states. This new expansion would allow Amtrak to serve 47 of the 48 contiguous states and provide intercity passenger rail service to 50 of the largest urban areas. This plan would ultimately be expanding service to 160 new communities and increasing its total communities served to above 680 total.
The vision of Amtrak is to add 39 new service lines as well as expand service to 25 current lines. This is projected to add 20 million more passengers, which is double the amount from 2019. These projects include, but are not limited to:
A. The Northeast Corridor Contribution: The main line of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) is 457 miles long traversing major cities in the northeast region including Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. With the addition of connecting corridors to Harrisburg, PA, Springfield, MA, Albany, NY, and Richmond, VA, the NEC spans a total of 899 miles [iv]. Major projects of this corridor are:
o $4 billion replacements of Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in Maryland
o $11.6 billion for tunnels under the Hudson River.
o Connecticut River Bridge Replacement 107-year-old Bridge.
B. Phoenix to Tucson, Arizona: The trip currently takes about 4 hours on public transportation and 2 hours by car [v].
C. Los Angeles to Las Vegas: The trip currently takes about 6 hours on public transportation and 4 hours by car.