White House announces a flood of money for high-speed rail and other train projects

The White House is announcing billions of dollars in new funding for train projects from coast to coast.

President Joe Biden is announcing $8.2 billion in new funding for 10 major passenger rail projects and other rail infrastructure across the country at an event in Las Vegas.

Among the highlights are $6 billion for high-speed rail in California and Nevada, $1 billion for new Amtrak service between Raleigh, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, and new funding for rail lines, bridges and other infrastructure improvements across the country. That comes on top of the news from the Federal Railroad Administration on new routes for Ohio and beyond.

“When we invest in America, there is literally nothing we cannot do,” Mitch Landrieu, the senior adviser responsible for implementing Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, said.

Landrieu and Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke at a White House press briefing. TPG reporter Caroline Tanner listened in as they discussed the projects coming out of the $66 billion for rail alone from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021.

Here’s what to expect.

$3 billion for Brightline West between Los Angeles and Las Vegas

An artist’s rendering of the Brightline train between Las Vegas and LA. BRIGHTLINE

The nation’s only private high-speed rail company, Brightline, will get a massive $3 billion federal grant. That’s a big chunk of the expected $12 billion cost to build high-speed rail between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Service could start as soon as 2028, in time for Los Angeles to host the Olympics. Once complete, trains could transport passengers between Southern California and Vegas at speeds as fast as 186 miles per hour.

Related: Brightline to connect Los Angeles and Las Vegas

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Brightline West route map between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. BRIGHTLINE

Brightline West put up banners in Nevada teasing a groundbreaking new line coming “soon.”

As we’ve reported, Brightline is the same private company now running trains between Orlando and Miami in Florida. The company recently increased frequencies, which suggests the service is getting increasingly popular. Check out our review from last month here.

The company launched operations in South Florida in 2018, connecting Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The extension to the terminals at Orlando International Airport (MCO) opened in September.

Related: Brightline doubles service between Orlando and Miami

$3.1 billion for high-speed rail in California

California will get another $3.1 billion for a high-speed rail line already under construction in California’s Central Valley. The new rail line is supposed to eventually link San Francisco and LA with trains running at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour.

The money will go toward a 119-mile segment currently under construction between Merced and Bakersfield, and it’ll provide funds to build a station in downtown Fresno. Another $8 to $10 billion will be required to finish that section alone. The so-called bullet train project is years behind schedule and tens of billions of dollars over budget. The funding from the Biden administration could give the project a renewed push.

Dramatic increase in Ohio and other Midwest routes and service

Map of potential Ohio Amtrak routing. OFFICE OF SEN. SHERROD BROWN

Ohio is getting a major rail investment. Potential new routes include Cincinnati-Dayton-Columbus-Cleveland, Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit and Chicago-Fort Wayne, Indiana-Columbus-Pittsburgh, with additional connector service to several more cities.

This should significantly increase rail service to an area that has few options (and, in some cases, no options) for passenger rail today.

Related: Major expansion of Amtrak service in the Midwest

“Good Amtrak service shouldn’t be a privilege only for people on the coasts,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement. “These new routes would expand opportunity, help grow businesses and create jobs, and connect communities in Ohio and across the Midwest … I will keep fighting to make sure that Ohio receives these critical infrastructure projects.”

There will also be increased service on Amtrak’s current service to Cincinnati from New York, Washington and Chicago.

$1 billion for a new Raleigh-to-Richmond line

The U.S. Department of Transportation is also providing a $1 billion grant to help restart passenger train service between Raleigh and Richmond. The line has been abandoned for more than 50 years, and the funds will help rebuild the tracks. The line will connect North Carolina to Virginia, Washington and the Northeast Corridor. It could mean high-speed rail to the nation’s capital to North Carolina’s fast-growing “triangle” region.

“This $1 billion grant for North Carolina to make progress on the Raleigh to Richmond Rail Line is a big win for economic development in the region,” North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said. Tillis was one of the 19 Republican senators who voted to support the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The federal government is also giving money to complete the Long Bridge project, which will double rail capacity over the Potomac River and add a new bicycle-pedestrian bridge between Arlington, Virginia, and Washington — a corridor where traffic frequently snarls during morning and evening rush hour.

Other major rail and infrastructure improvements

Buttigieg also said there will be $34 million invested in 69 corridor projects across the U.S. Those projects will help develop intercity rail in cities across the country.

He said there will be 15 upgrades to existing lines, extensions to another 47 lines and a total of seven new proposed high-speed rail programs. Examples include new service between the Twin Cities and Duluth, Minnesota; Tucson, Arizona, and Phoenix; and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and New Orleans, and service restoration between Chicago and Seattle through rural areas.

There’s also cash for Chicago. The funds will upgrade the major rail hub and provide $93 million for improvements to Union Station. Improvements include renovating and expanding platforms, adding and improving new station entrances and making the station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The funds will also help repurpose a mail platform abandoned in 2005 so that it can be used for intercity rail service.

“Chicago, often referred to as the crossroads of America, holds a unique position in the converging point for railroads that cross our nation,” Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said. “This significant federal investment is a strategic move to ensure our city remains not just a crossroads, but a thriving nexus that efficiently connects people, goods, and ideas.”

Pennsylvania will get money for a second Amtrak service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. It will get more than $143 million to upgrade rail tracks and more infrastructure on the Keystone West Corridor. It will also get a half-million-dollar grant to plan an expansion of both Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian and Keystone services between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Bottom line

The White House is announcing tens of billions of dollars for rail improvements and new lines across the country, including high-speed rail. It’s the largest federal investment in passenger rail transportation since Amtrak was created in 1971. The funding could help eventually make bullet trains a reality in the United States.

“The message is if you’ve ever seen the standard of passenger rail service in Japan or Germany or, for that matter, Spain or Italy and come home and say, why can’t we have nice things? This is the answer to that,” Buttigieg said. “Help is on the way.”

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