Biden administration announces $1.4 billion to improve rail systems | Courthouse News Service
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Biden administration announces $1.4 billion to improve rail systems

The funds will support 70 passenger and freight projects in 35 states.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Passenger and freight lines are receiving a $1.4 billion injection of federal funding to boost safety and increase service.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday that it has awarded the funding to 70 projects in 35 states through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

“These projects will make American rail safer, more reliable, and more resilient, delivering tangible benefits to dozens of communities where railroads are located, and strengthening supply chains for the entire country,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release.

Officials said some of the projects are on the precipice of starting construction while others are in various stages of development.

Coupled with $570 million announced in June to improve safety at railroad crossings, officials said America’s rail system will be transformed. The money comes under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“People look at America’s rail system and correctly say it needs improvement,” Buttigieg told reporters in a background call on Friday.

Federal officials have been in the hot seat to improve safety on rail lines since a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed in February in East Palestine, Ohio. Railcars burned for several days and emergency crews conducted controlled burns requiring residents within a one-mile radius to evacuate.

Although none of the funding announced Monday is going to that particular stretch of rail, regulators announced stricter rules in June governing the transport of hazardous materials. President Joe Biden on Thursday also appointed a disaster recovery coordinator to oversee cleanup efforts in the community.

Mitch Landrieu, the White House infrastructure coordinator and former mayor of New Orleans, called attention to $178.4 million for the Gulf Coast Corridor Improvement Project to restart passenger rail service between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala. He said it has been out of service since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The project will also improve freight operations on lines used by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway.

Buttigieg highlighted a project to add two round trip routes between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., which currently has three daily trains. The money comes as residents of Washington and Northern Virginia have moved further from the district as remote work grew during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While national ridership hasn’t quite reached pre-Covid levels, passenger trips between Richmond and D.C. had actually increased by 26% from July 2019 to July 2022, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Buttigieg said improved rail helps people taking other modes of transportation as well.

“More use of trains means less congestion on our roads and it means less pollution,” he said.

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