In the midst of significant challenges to rapidly repair infrastructure at Penn Station and move forward with the essential Gateway Tunnel Project, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced an increase of $105 million in federal funding for Amtrak, including a major increase in funding for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) in the bipartisan federal spending agreement.

“This extra $105 million will provide a vital injection to Northeast rail infrastructure, support essential repair work at Penn Station and boost the essential Gateway Tunnel Project. These dollars are a huge win for commuters in the region. I’ve already spoken to Amtrak and made it clear, these extra dollars should be used to quickly make the necessary repairs to tracks in and out of Penn Station and advance the critically important Gateway project,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

Schumer said this additional funding, along with Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor revenue will result in over $725 million in investment available to the NEC and will maintain long distance Amtrak service. As a result of Schumer’s advocacy Amtrak will receive a total of $1.495 billion in federal support this year, the highest total since 2010. Schumer said that these federal funds will help Amtrak complete repairs in and around Penn Station and support the Gateway project.   

Amtrak is currently facing an over $28 billion state-of-good repair backlog, which contributed to the maintenance issues that caused the derailments.   This funding will go a long way to addressing the widespread maintenance issues plaguing the Northeast Corridor due to a lack of funding.  Previously Schumer has called for a major increase in rail and transit maintenance funding to help address the issue. 

“These dollars will help get rail repairs back on track and that means less inconvenience for commuters who have been dealing with delay after delay,” Schumer added.  

The agreement also included funding for FRA safety and operations supports the inspector workforce, expands automated track inspections to prevent derailments, and sustains investments into tank car research and other ongoing crude-by-rail safety initiatives. The bipartisan funding agreement funds Amtrak at $1.495 billion, $105 million more than the fiscal year 2016 level. The funding provided for Amtrak will help sustain a rail system that serves over 31 million passengers in over 500 communities throughout 46 states. Specifically, of these funds, $75 million will be provided to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor account.

After Schumer’s push, the federal transportation bill from last year bill included changes to Amtrak's structure, for the first time allowing Amtrak to reinvest profits generated on the Northeast corridor in the Northeast. This new funding structure helps provide the resources needed to advance the Gateway Program by increasing the amount of capital dollars available for Amtrak to utilize and creating a more predictable revenue stream that can be borrowed against. It is estimated that $397 million in NEC profits will be able to be used for work within the NEC. Additionally, a federal grant in the amount of $328 million will be provided for work within NEC. Overall, the NEC will be provided with $725 million.

The budget agreement also provides $98 million for newly-authorized rail safety and state of good repair grants across the country. Specifically –

  • $68 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants to support capital projects, implementation of Positive Train Control, and highway-rail grade crossing improvements;
  • $25 million for Federal State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grants to upgrade aging infrastructure within the Amtrak network; and
  • $5 million for Rail Restoration and Enhancement Grants to connect

In addition to funding repairs at Penn Station this additional federal funding will also support the Gateway Tunnel Project, including new tunnels under the Hudson and Portal North Bridge.  Maintenance issues are also made worse by a lack of redundant capacity in and out of Penn Station. This means that when issues like those that occurred in the last months do happen the delays can last for days because there is only one way in and out of Penn Station. Increasing capacity into Penn Station is a major focus of the Gateway Program, and that successfully completing the Gateway project is the key to ensuring that small problems don't become massive headaches, like they were in the past weeks.

In the Northeast alone, each day 750,000 people travel on rail systems from Washington, DC to Boston, contributing $50 billion to our national economy. The Northeast Corridor consists of 8 commuter railroad systems (including Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Rail Road and New Jersey Transit), and 4 freight railroad systems that carry shale oil, coal, and other goods to and from ports. Overall, the corridor includes a total of 2,000 daily trains. In its current state, service disruptions on the Northeast Corridor alone cost the national economy over $500 million per year and a loss of transit service on the Corridor for a single day would cost the US $100 million.

Last week, Amtrak announced plans to repair tracks at Penn Station this coming summer season. Schumer said that the increase in funds could help Amtrak make these repairs as well as others sin the future. Schumer also explained that increasing capacity into Penn Station is a major focus of the Gateway Program, and that successfully completing the Gateway project is the key to ensuring that small problems don't become massive headaches. Schumer said that these funds would help support the Gateway Program.


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