The Biden administration on Dec. 8 announced $8.2 billion in new funding for 10 passenger rail projects across the country, including the first two high-speed rail projects.
The investment is part of $66 billion in funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in November 2021, the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago, according to the White House.
President Biden has hailed the law, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as one of his administration’s major legislative victories. He often mentions that he was well known for traveling frequently by train during his time in the U.S. Senate.
The president delivered remarks on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas about the progress of his “Investing in America” agenda, including these new investments in high-speed railway projects.
Key selected projects include constructing a new high-speed rail corridor between Las Vegas and southern California, serving an estimated 11 million passengers annually. The project is scheduled to be completed before the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
“We’re finally going to make high-speed rail happen between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Folks, we’ve been talking about this project for decades,“ President Biden said. ”Now, we’re really getting it done.”
The project will receive up to $3 billion in funding and will shorten trip times to a little more than 2 hours, which is nearly twice as fast as driving.
“That means more visitors, more business for Las Vegas, and more money. And if a casino worker wants to take their kid to California for the weekend, they can have breakfast here in Las Vegas and lunch in LA,” the president said.
The other project is constructing a rail line through California’s Central Valley with travel speeds of up to 220 mph to eventually connect Los Angeles and San Francisco.
President Biden called the project a “game changer.”
“This project in California is the most ambitious rail project in the entire Western Hemisphere. It’s expected to carry 31 million passengers a year and will be 100 percent powered by renewable energy,” he said.
In a recent hearing, however, some Republicans objected to the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project, saying it is overbudget and behind schedule.
The California project “has been plagued by a failure to account for actual costs,” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) said on Dec. 5 in his opening statement during a hearing by a subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“The California high-speed rail project shows the failures of poor planning and government incompetence,” he said.
Years behind schedule, the project has been a target of political criticism.
On a conference call with reporters, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg defended the project, saying that funding gives all rail projects “the greatest level of acceleration we’ve seen in modern times.”
The other investment projects announced by the Biden administration include upgrading rail corridors in Virginia, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia and upgrading and expanding capacity at Chicago Union Station in Illinois, one of the busiest rail hubs in the country.
“These historic projects will create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs, unlock economic opportunity for communities across the country, and open up safe, comfortable, and climate-friendly travel options to get people to their destinations in a fraction of the time it takes to drive,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
“Additionally, electric high-speed trains will take millions of cars off the roads and reduce emissions.”
To date, President Biden has announced $30 billion in rail projects around the country, including $16.4 billion for the Northeast Corridor, $1.4 billion for passenger rail and freight rail safety initiatives, and $570 million for railroad crossing upgrades or mitigation.
Following his speech in Las Vegas, the president will travel to Los Angeles as part of a weeklong fundraising tour throughout the country to boost his campaign finances before the year ends. He’s expected to meet with wealthy donors, including tech executives, lawyers, politicians, and Hollywood stars. Barbra Streisand and Steven Spielberg are among the celebrities the president is set to meet during his visit.