Happening Now

Savor This Day

December 8, 2023

By Jim Mathews / President & CEO

Friends, savor this day. Savor it, be glad, pat yourselves on the back.

Today, the White House and the Dept. of Transportation released another $8.2 billion worth of exciting Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passenger rail projects around the U.S. and kick-started development of 69 new routes across 44 states. And that’s on top of $16.4 billion for important Northeast Corridor and regional rail improvements.

Let that sink in.

Thanks to the 2021 infrastructure law and the sensible, bipartisan support that made it possible, the Biden-Harris Administration in the past few weeks has been able to announce transformational investments of the sort that this Association has been working more than half a century to create.

These grants will support the introduction of daily Amtrak service in regions that currently have to make do with trains that only come through their town three times per week.

They’ll help expand popular Amtrak services in rapidly growing parts of the Southeast and plant the seeds for scores of new routes across the nation.

A successful federal passenger rail program must do more than improve the commutes in coastal cities—investing in an improved and expanded Amtrak is the surest way to ensure that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law improves the transportation network for all Americans. FRA Administrator Amit Bose and his hard-working team at the Federal Railroad Administration have been aiming at this day for a long, long time. They deserve our thanks and congratulations.

I was having lunch earlier this week in DC with a friend who was once a fairly senior and important congressional staffer involved in transportation. We were reliving some of our earliest conversations, and laughed when they recalled our hope to get CRISI grants funded in the hundreds of millions.

“It was a stretch,” my friend said. “And now look where we are!”

Indeed. In September, the Federal Railroad Administration was able to award $1.4 billion in CRISI grants to 70 projects in 37 states.

Over the coming days and weeks, we’ll be looking more closely at the Corridor Identification Program and Fed-State Partnership lists. As in all competitive Federal programs, there were winners and losers. But this was only a first round; projects not selected today have legitimate hopes to be chosen tomorrow.

Days like today are why we all do this work. It’s why we read legislation, work with congressional committees on draft language and policy provisions, meet with Mayors and state DOTs, sit down with local business leaders, and convene real conversations around the country about passenger rail’s potential to transform economies, communities, and lives. There’s still a lot of work to do to keep these investments going, to make sure the investments lead to visible improvements for passengers, to keep policymakers and thought leaders excited about what can be done. And we all know our network today needs to get better, cleaner, more functional, and more reliable.

But don’t let that blind you to the history that’s been made today. With today’s announcement, our country has invested more in passenger rail in the past two years than it has in the previous two decades, and there’s a lot more exciting progress to come. Whether you’re new to our movement or have been with us since day one, each of you can claim your share of making history.

Savor this day today, because we did it. With your help, we did it.