Feds could send billions in tax dollars to Amtrak for Northeast Corridor

An Amtrak train passes through New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 2018. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(The Center Square) – The federal government could allocate nearly $6.6 billion in grants to Amtrak over the next five years for “activities associated with the Northeast Corridor.”

The money is included in the $78 billion Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021. The bill, which the Senate Committee on Commerce advanced this week, allocates $36 billion for rail projects, including $25 billion over five years for intercity passenger rail.

“This bill protects Amtrak’s treasured long-distance routes, provides funding to address the Northeast Corridor project backlog, and encourages expansion of passenger rail corridors with State support,” according to a fact sheet on the bill.

Last year, in a letter to lawmakers, Amtrak’s president said the railroad needed more than $1.7 billion in federal tax dollars for the corridor. This week, an Amtrak spokesperson did not provide details about how the railroad might use the $6.6 billion for the Northeast Corridor, which runs between Boston and Washington.

“Amtrak looks forward to working with both the House and the Senate to address the issues most critical to the future of intercity passenger rail – reliable and robust investment in the improvement of our infrastructure, fleet and stations and the expansion of the network to serve more of America with faster, better service,” the spokesperson said in an email to The Center Square.

NJ Transit and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) also operate on the corridor.

In addition to passenger rail-specific funding, the legislation authorizes more than $7.5 billion over five years for rail safety and improvement projects. That funding includes $500 million per year for a new grant program to eliminate grade crossings.

It also increases funding for the Consolidated Rail and Infrastructure Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant program and changes the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program (RRIF).

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