July 7, 2023
(Washington, D.C.) -- On June 27, the Coalition for the Northeast Corridor (CNEC) sent a letter to Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressing support for his efforts to improve rail infrastructure throughout the Northeast Corridor. The letter addressed the funding provided through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program. The program directs funds to regions that are in most need, specifically the Northeast Corridor which is home to more than 51 million people (almost one in six Americans) and four of the ten largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The grant program aims to reduce the state of good repair backlog, improve equipment performance, and expand or establish new intercity passenger rail services, including those privately operated.
In the IIJA, Congress appropriated $36 billion for the program. CNEC asks that the Secretary urge Congress to fund the program at its fully authorized amount within the FY 2024 appropriations bill so that communities, railway stakeholders, and businesses not only in the NEC but also across the country receive its benefits.
The letter points out that the grant program provides funding not solely based on location, but rather on need. The Northeast Corridor has been and remains the busiest rail corridor in the United States however, the 457-mile main line still includes many bridges and tunnels that date back to the period between the Civil War and the New Deal. Despite this, the NEC continues to transport a workforce that contributes more than $50 billion annually to the national economy. The letter emphasizes that because the NEC also plays an important role in supporting the broader transportation system within the country, a one-day loss of the NEC could cost the nation $100 million in additional highway congestion, productivity losses, and other transportation impacts.
In 2015, Congress created a second account within the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program, dedicated to bringing NEC into a state of good repair. This goal has yet to be accomplished. With many projects still remaining on the NEC Project Inventory List, CNEC confirms that the greatest need for repair remains within the Northeast.
The Coalition concludes its letter by urging the Secretary to, "continue to prioritize the development and improvement of passenger rail service across the country, including the Northeast Corridor, to support economic growth and reduce congestion for all Americans."