By Seung Min Kim
The Associated Press
BEAR, Del.>> President Joe Biden, arguably the nation’s biggest Amtrak fan, visited a train maintenance shop in his home state of Delaware on Monday to showcase more than $16 billion in federal investments for rail travel along the busy Northeast Corridor, saying of long-delayed improvements, “We’re finally getting it done.”
The president highlighted spending to modernize 25 passenger train projects between Boston and Washington at an event in Bear, about 12 miles from Biden’s home in Wilmington.
“Why, in the United States of America, do we not have the best rail system in the world?” Biden asked. Noting that better train service in some of America’s busiest locales would help ease car traffic and potentially reduce fossil fuel use, he added, “There’s so much more we can do to better the environment and quality of life.”
Amtrak runs about 800,000 trips daily on its Northeast Corridor, the White House says, which makes it the nation’s busiest rail corridor. Monday’s event combined two things close to Biden’s heart: Amtrak and Delaware.
“It’s good to be home,” he declared. “There’s no better place to make this announcement than in my home state.”
The funding for the rail improvements comes from the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law that Biden signed nearly two years ago, one of several legislative achievements he’s trumpeting in a presidential race that could feature a rematch against former President Donald Trump.
From the law, Amtrak will get about $66 billion in new investments, according to the White House.
“I’ve been talking about this for a long time, I know,” Biden said of rail improvements. “Finally, finally we’re getting it done.”
The president’s trip was a brief break from dealing with problems around the globe, especially in the Gaza Strip, amid Israel’s war with Hamas.
Biden, who has made infrastructure spending a centerpiece of his reelection campaign, used his speech to criticize Republican backers of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement for wanting to “slash” Amtrak’s budget.
“We’re trying to make train travel easier, faster, safer, more reliable,” he said. “They’re trying to make it slower, harder and less safe.”
Before his formal remarks, a beaming Biden chatted and laughed with Amtrak maintenance shop workers. He asked one how she was doing and when the reply came, “Good, how are you?” Biden responded, “Well, I got about $16 billion for you,” drawing laughs.
He told another of the coming public works spending, “You know you’re going to be getting a lot of new trains, man.” A blue and white sign along the tracks read “Northeast Corridor Improvement” and “Project founded by President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
During his 36 years as a senator, Biden traveled back and forth from Wilmington to Washington daily.
The president says he’s logged more than 1 million miles on Amtrak during his public service career, and displayed firsthand knowledge of the route on Monday.
Speaking about a key rail tunnel in Baltimore, Biden said it was a “major checkpoint, but it’s also a major choke point.” He talked about leaks there that can cause delays, as well as sharp curves elsewhere that force crowded trains to slow way down.
“You don’t need to tell me,” Biden said of frequent train delays. “I lived it.”
Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report from Washington.