- Vice President Joe Biden has announced that the Department of Transportation is lending Amtrak $2.45 billion to make upgrades to its Northeastern corridor system. Amtrak said it will repay the loan from future revenues, according to ABC News.
- Marking the largest DOT loan ever, it will pay for 23 replacement trains and five new ones ($2 billion), facility improvements along the corridor ($170 million), safety improvements ($90 million) and track infrastructure ($80 million). The new trains and track upgrades will allow eventual system speeds of 186 mph.
- The vice president and Amtrak officials lamented the lack of rail system planning in the U.S. and also pointed to the $7 billion Amtrak still needs to address its maintenance backlog, particularly because the population along the Northeastern corridor is expected to reach 58 million by 2040, putting additional pressure on transit.
Amtrak's current Northeastern corridor stock is scheduled to be replaced by the end of 2022 with trains from global manufacturer Alstom, which will build them at its New York facilities. Alstom is also working on a tentative deal to develop a $380 million light-rail streetcar system for the city of Miami Beach.
However, Amtrak isn't focusing only on the Northeastern corridor track and car upgrades. In March, the rail service announced a $50 million concourse overhaul at Union Station in Washington, DC. After renovations are complete in 2019 or 2020, the concourse will provide riders with an additional 20,000 square feet of restrooms, seating areas and boarding gates.
Amtrak has also proposed a $6.5 billion development for the 175 acres around its University City station in Philadelphia. The 35-year plan would include an 18-million-square-foot neighborhood with enough housing to accommodate 10,000 new residents and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space. As far as financing for the project — which is largely contingent on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's decision about the location of an underground concourse — Amtrak said $2 billion of public financing would spur $4.5 billion in private investment.
Amtrak also recently announced its plans to select a developer for its Baltmore Penn Station renovation in 2017. The rail service has a massive overhaul in mind, possibly using a public-private partnership to help Amtrak reach its project goals of "design, community involvement and financing." Although Amtrak has not released a cost estimate for the project, the renovation is expected to take Amtrak well beyond the $20 million it has spent on basic maintenance and repairs at the station during the last six years.