President Joe Biden on January 30 will help kick off a project to replace a 150-year-old rail tunnel in Baltimore that is seen as among the worst bottlenecks slowing train traffic on the Northeast Corridor.
The visit is part of a renewed push to highlight projects funded by Biden’s signature infrastructure legislation in the new year.
Prospects for new legislative victories have dimmed, with Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, leaving the White House to focus its efforts on implementing and championing legislation passed during the president’s first two years in office. The president will hold a meeting February 1 with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, where Republicans are expected to ask for federal budget cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.
Biden will be joined at January 30’s event by two Democrats who are seen as future presidential aspirants: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Maryland Governor Wes Moore, who was introduced at his inauguration earlier in January by Oprah Winfrey.
Biden has repeatedly expressed his personal affinity for Amtrak, which he used for decades to commute to and from his home outside Wilmington, Delaware. Biden has said he logged more than 2 million train miles on the system, and that he previously walked through the Civil-War era tunnel in Maryland to observe its deteriorating status.
Amtrak says it is the oldest tunnel in its system, lacks basic fire safety systems, and suffers from a sinking floor and flooding. One in ten weekday Amtrak trains operating through the tunnel suffer from delays. With the construction of the new tunnel, trains will be able to go up to 110 miles per hour — versus a maximum of 30 miles per hour currently.
Biden is expected to travel to New York January 31, where he’ll also highlight the Hudson River Tunnel project to construct a new tunnel connecting New Jersey with Manhattan while the current tunnel is being rehabilitated.
Some 200,000 passengers travel in the tunnel between New York and New Jersey every weekday, while an estimated 9 million passengers take the rail between Baltimore and Washington annually.
The White House estimates that construction of the new tunnel in Baltimore – which will be named after abolitionist and Maryland native Frederick Douglass – will create approximately 20,000 construction jobs. The project will also see the construction of a new regional train station in West Baltimore.
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