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Biden announces $16 billion for Amtrak rail improvements in Northeast Corridor

By Gregory Wallace and Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) — President Joe Biden announced Monday the federal government will pump more than $16 billion into improving the nation’s busiest rail line.

At an event in Delaware on Monday, Biden said the funding will go into more than two dozen projects along the Northeast Corridor – the Amtrak system that connects cities including Washington, New York and Boston.

Biden hailed the new investments, saying he knew the agony of waiting on a stopped train while trying to get home.

“I know how much it matters,” he said, describing an aging system in dire need of upgrades and repairs.

His words held particular resonance as trains nearby were stopped due to fire department activity on the tracks. It wasn’t clear whether the issue was related to the problems his new investments are meant to fix.

Biden told the hometown crowd that he was intent on making US rail first-rate.

“How can you be a leading country in the world and have a second-rate infrastructure?” he asked. “It’s not possible.”

The Biden administration said it selected projects including aging bridges and tunnels in need of replacement and said the $16.4 billion includes funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The funding “will upgrade aging infrastructure on the nation’s most heavily traveled rail corridor to increase train speeds, reduce passenger delays, and create good-paying union jobs,” said a White House official.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the projects are “critical” and “represent some of the most frequent causes of problems and disruptions and delays.”

The largest slice of funding will go to the underwater train tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey.  The Gateway Hudson River Tunnel – which the Amtrak CEO has said would cause “meltdown” if it failed – is more than a century old and is corroding after flooding during Superstorm Sandy more than a decade ago.  The $3.8 billion grant follows another federal award of nearly $7 billion this summer.

The funding also includes $4.7 billion toward replacing a Civil War-era tunnel near Baltimore. The Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel is flooding and sinking and frequently slows trains into the city to a crawl, causing delays up and down the line. Completion of the new tunnel is expected in 2033.

Other projects to be funded include replacing a 100-year-old bridge in Maryland and a 116-year-old bridge in Connecticut.

“Americans need and deserve world-class rail, which is the president’s vision,” Buttigieg told reporters. “But for decades now, we have underinvested as a country in passenger rail in the United States.”

During his speech Monday, Biden described bridges, tunnels and rails that were more than a century old, including the Baltimore tunnel that was built during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. Many haven’t seen upgrades in decades, leading to leaks and breakdowns.

“This is the USA for God’s sake. We’re better than that and now we’re proving it,” he said.

He hit Republicans who he said were trying to slash Amtrak budgets.

“They’re trying to make it slower … and less safe,” he said. “We’re not going to let them stop the progress we’re making.”

Biden said his investments were helping renew American pride.

“I truly believe this country’s about to take off,” he said. “For the first time in a long time, we’re bringing pride back.”

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