Biden to Showcase $8.2B Rail Projects 12/08 06:19
President Joe Biden is heading to Las Vegas to showcase $8.2 billion in
funding for 10 major passenger rail projects across the country, including to
spur work on high-speed, electric train routes that could one day link Nevada
and California, as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden is heading to Las Vegas to showcase
$8.2 billion in funding for 10 major passenger rail projects across the
country, including to spur work on high-speed, electric train routes that could
one day link Nevada and California, as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The administration says the 218-mile (350.8-kilometer) train route linking
Las Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga, California, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east
of downtown Los Angeles, may one day serve more than 11 million passengers
The administration hopes the investment through federal and state
partnership programs will help to boost prospects for the long-discussed
project, which supporters say could revitalize travel in the American West and
critics argue is too costly.
Another electric rail line getting funding has been billed as the nation's
first high-speed route and is eventually planned to traverse California's
Central Valley and extend to San Francisco and on to Los Angeles, with trains
reaching up to 220 mph (354 kph).
The funding the president will highlight won't be nearly enough to cover the
full costs of either project, but signals the Biden administration's commitment
to spurring train travel in a nation that has long celebrated the spirit of
fast cars and open highways.
"The bottom line is that, under President Biden, we're delivering world
class passenger rail service that Americans ought to be able to expect,"
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on a conference call with
Other train projects getting funding include upgrades to heavily traveled
corridors in Virginia and North Carolina, with the eventual goal of linking
Richmond and Raleigh by rail. Funding will also go to improvements to a rail
bridge over the Potomac River to bolster passenger service in Washington and
cover train corridor upgrades in western Pennsylvania and Maine, while
expanding capacity at Chicago's Union Station, one of the nation's busiest rail
The announcement aside, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said
Biden also would use his visit to Las Vegas to address this week's shooting at
the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, that killed three people and wounded a
fourth. He is to end the day in Los Angeles at a fundraiser featuring
entertainment industry luminaries.
Friday's trip was planned before the shooting and Biden's focus on train
service is little surprise for a president who is a big passenger rail
advocate. Biden has championed several major federal spending investments in
passenger rail travel, including last month when he announced $16 billion in
federal investments for rail travel along the busy Northeast Corridor.
During his 36 years as a senator, Biden traveled back and forth from his
home in Delaware to Washington daily and says he has logged more than 1 million
miles on Amtrak.
Making high speed rail a reality in California won't be easy, though, since
its first-in-the-U.S. project has long been plagued by extended deadlines and
The plan has been funded by some prior federal grants, as well as a bond
fund approved by voters in 2008, and revenue from the state's cap-and-trade
climate program. But that adds up to a total far below the project's estimated
costs, now at more than $100 billion.
California Republicans have long been critical of the project, but even some
state Democrats have become more vocal in their skepticism.
Construction and land acquisition is underway in the Central Valley. But
Brian Kelly, the project's CEO, has long said a fresh infusion of federal cash
is an important part of advancing the project. The Biden administration had
previously signaled support for the project when it restored nearly $1 billion
in federal money that the Trump administration tried to revoke.
Asked about rising costs and growing delays on the high-speed line,
Buttigieg acknowledged, "They are facing a lot of the challenges that come with
being the very first at anything."
"For all of these projects, we would not be funding them if we did not
believe they can deliver," he said.