Will Congress and ‘Amtrak Joe’ bring passenger rail into the 21st century?

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Posted May 27, 2021 at 3:25pm

Delaware Sen. Thomas R. Carper used to commute to Washington on the Amtrak train with then-Sen. Joe Biden. After the pandemic decimated Amtrak’s ridership and disrupted the way the world works and commutes, Carper one day earlier this year found himself using Amtrak in a new way: remotely gaveling in a Senate committee hearing from the train while running late due to President Biden’s visit to Wilmington that morning.

Rail is one of the many pieces of the nation’s infrastructure that Congress and the president are aiming to tune up with a broad package of legislation. Biden called for an $80 billion investment into the nation’s rail system in his initial infrastructure proposal. Senate Republicans announced a counteroffer Thursday morning, with $46 billion going to rail.

But with Amtrak facing a backlog of repairs and ambitious goals for expansion, is any amount going to be enough?

[ For more on Amtrak’s future, check out this week’s episode of the CQ Future podcast with Shawn Zeller ]