President Biden announces billions for high-speed rail expansion and new passenger rail

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

President Biden has announced $8.2 billion in new funding for 10 major passenger rail projects across the country, including the country’s first world-class high-speed rail projects.

Key projects include:

  • upgrades to Chicago Union Station
  • building a new high-speed rail system between California and Nevada, which will create a high-speed rail line through California’s Central Valley to link Los Angeles and San Francisco, supporting travel with speeds up to 220 mph
  • significant upgrades to frequently-traveled rail corridors in Virginia, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia
  • upgrading and expanding capacity at Chicago Union Station in Illinois, one of the nation’s busiest rail hubs

Announced projects will add new passenger rail service to new cities and repair aging rail infrastructure to increase train speeds, reduce delays, increase freight rail supply chains and reduce greenhouse emissions, and create good-paying union jobs. Additionally, electric high-speed rail trains will take millions of cars off the roads.

Major regional hubs will benefit from multiple corridor selections, such as the Chicago Hub, where a comprehensive plan for the Chicago terminal and service chokepoints south of Lake Michigan will benefit all corridors and long-distance trains south and east of Chicago.

The Brightline West High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail System Project will receive up to $3 billion for a new 218-mile intercity passenger rail system between Las Vegas, Nevada, and Rancho Cucamonga, California. The project will create a new high-speed rail system, resulting in trip times of just over 2 hours – nearly twice as fast as driving.

This project will create 35,000 jobs supporting construction and support 1,000 permanent jobs in operations and maintenance once in service. Brightline’s agreement with the California State and Southern Nevada Building Trades will ensure that this project is built with good-paying union labor, and the project has reached a separate agreement with Rail Labor to employ union workers for its ongoing operations and maintenance. The project will also allow for connections to the Los Angeles Metro area via the Metrolink commuter rail system.

The California Inaugural High-Speed Rail Service Project will receive up to $3.07 billion to help deliver high-speed rail service in California’s Central Valley by designing and extending the rail line between Bakersfield and Merced, procuring new high-speed trainsets, and constructing the Fresno station, which will connect communities to urban centers in Northern and Southern California.

  • The Raleigh to Richmond (R2R) Innovating Rail Program Phases IA and II project will receive up to $1.1 billion to build approximately additional parts of the Southeast Corridor from Raleigh to Wake Forest, North Carolina, including new and upgraded track, eleven grade separations and closure of multiple at-grade crossings.
  • The Long Bridge project, part of the Transforming Rail in Virginia – Phase II program, will receive $729 million to construct a new two-track rail bridge over the Potomac River to expand passenger rail capacity between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA.

Other significant projects receiving grants include: upgrades to Chicago Union Station; upgrades to the Pennsylvania Keystone Corridor, extending the service west of Philadelphia-Harrisburg to Pittsburgh and adding frequencies; improving the Downeaster corridor in Maine, connecting Boston, Massachusetts, to Brunswick, Maine; rail infrastructure improvements in Montana along a route carrying Amtrak’s Empire Builder long-distance rail service between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest; and replacing a key rail bridge in Alaska used by freight and intercity passenger trains.

Also, a new planning framework for future investments, and corridor selections announced today stand to upgrade 15 existing rail routes, establish 47 extensions to existing and new conventional corridor routes.

Project selections include:

  • Scranton to New York, reviving a dormant rail corridor between Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, to provide up to three daily trips for commuters and other passengers
  • Colorado Front Range, a new rail corridor connecting Fort Collins, CO, and Pueblo, CO, to serve an area that currently has no passenger rail options
  • The Northern Lights Express, connecting Minneapolis, MN and Duluth, MN, with several stops in Wisconsin, for greater regional connectivity
  • Cascadia High-Speed Rail, a proposed new high-speed rail corridor linking Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver, with entirely new service
  • Charlotte to Atlanta, a new high-speed rail corridor linking the Southeast and providing connection to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport

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