Amtrak Acela II test run

USA: Rail industry organisations have welcomed the passing by Congress of the $1tr Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, which includes significant funding for passenger and freight rail as well as public transport.

The White House said IIJA would provide the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago, with $66bn in rail funding allocated within it. This includes $22bn in grants to Amtrak, $24bn as federal-state partnership grants for Northeast Corridor modernisation, $12bn in partnership grants for inter-city rail services ‘including high speed rail’, $5bn for rail improvement and safety grants, and $3bn for level crossing safety improvements.

IIJA provides $89·9bn in guaranteed funding for public transport over the next five years, including $39bn of new investment for modernisation in addition to the continuation of existing programmes for five years as part of surface transportation reauthorisation. 

There is also significant funding for R&D and demonstration projects.

IIJA was passed by the Senate in August and the House of Representatives on November 5, and will now go to President Joe Biden for signing into law. Biden described it as ‘a once-in-generation bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create millions of jobs, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, and put us on a path to win the economic competition for the 21st century’.

Industry welcomes significant investment

The Railway Supply Institute said IIJA was ‘an unequivocal victory’ for the railway supply industry. The ‘largest federal investment in our nation’s rail infrastructure in history’ would enable transport agencies to repair and replace ageing fleets, rebuild infrastructure, expand services and improve safety and accessibility, ‘while also creating thousands of American jobs up and down the supply chain’.

BNSF Tehachapi Mountains (Photo: Dave Lustig)

RSI called on the House to continue to advance the Build Back Better Act, which would provide federal funding for high speed rail development and public transport ‘to make lasting improvements to our nation’s infrastructure for years to come’.

The Association of American Railroads said ‘as we continue to navigate supply chain challenges, the need for the thoughtful funding and policy solutions over the long term that this bipartisan package delivers are even more clear’, adding that IIJA would enable ‘the significant, long-overdue investments we need to modernise our public infrastructure, enhance safety and support future economic growth’.

Amtrak Southwest Chief

Amtrak Chair Tony Coscia said IIJA was ‘the start of a whole new era for improved and expanded Amtrak service’, and he looked forward to working with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and state, commuter and host railways ‘to rebuild and improve the Northeast Corridor and launch the next generation of Amtrak service in cities and towns across America.’

CEO Bill Flynn said Amtrak would progress significant infrastructure and station projects, purchase rolling stock and develop new rail corridors, ‘bringing passenger rail to more people across the nation’.

The Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association said IIJA ‘makes much-needed investments across the infrastructure spectrum’, and REMSA specifically supports investment in freight and passenger rail networks through existing and new grant programmes and the reauthorisation of surface transportation provisions. ‘IIJA will help the rail sector and its suppliers remain economically competitive, efficient, and safe into the future’, REMSA said.

The American Public Transportation Association said ‘this legislation is vital to building the American infrastructure of the future and is a necessary step in providing the transformational investment in public transportation infrastructure that our country so desperately needs’.