Vice President Biden announces $2.45 billion federal loan to Amtrak

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US Vice President Joe Biden walks past a train while leaving after speaking about infrastructure at Amtrak's Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Railroad Station on Friday in Wilmington, Delaware. Amtrak on Friday awarded a $1.8 billion deal to French manufacturer Alstom to supply new trains for its key Acela service between Washington, New York and Boston. The landmark deal for 28 new passenger trains will boost Amtrak's speed and capacity along its most heavily used and profitable route from 2021. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden on Friday is set to announce a $2.45 billion loan to Amtrak from the Department of Transportation, the largest loan in the department’s history.

Biden announced the new loan at his namesake Joseph R. Biden Jr., Train Station in Wilmington, Delaware.

The $2.45 billion will be used to purchase 28 new train sets for the high-speed Acela train between Washington through New York and into Boston. The money will also be used to rehabilitate railroad tracks and upgrade four stations, including Washington’s Union Station and Baltimore’s Penn Station.

“This loan is a key step to providing investments needed to help keep high speed trains moving throughout the region, and to help all commuters in the Northeast Corridor,” Biden said. “We need these kinds of investments to keep this region — and our whole country — moving, and to create new jobs.”

CNN reported in May that many aspects of US rail systems — particularly along the Northeast Corridor — are in need of repair and rehabilitation. The price of renewing and safeguarding the web of railways that covers the over 450-mile East Coast stretch stands at an estimated $20 billion.

Amtrak is funding the train sets and infrastructure improvements through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program that will be repaid through growth in Northeast Corridor revenues, Amtrak has said.

Amtrak is already heavily subsidized by the federal government. The system’s 2015 adjusted operating loss was $306.5 million, the most recent year for which data is available, and the service requested $1.83 billion in federal funding for the 2017 fiscal year, Amtrak told CNN Friday.

Amtrak’s funding has long been a topic of discussion in Congress.

“Why in this country are we so boneheaded to not understand the essential value of a rail system that is modern throughout the whole country? Why do we argue about whether or not it makes sense,” an impassioned Biden asked in Wilmington, calling the Northeast Corridor an “overall security net” for the economy.

“We can’t make this country work without rail,” he added.

The vice president’s support for Amtrak has been well-documented. As a senator, he made the commute to Washington from Wilmington nearly every workday for more than 35 years.

“If we get elected, it will be the most train-friendly administration ever,” he told a fellow passenger shortly after being named Barack Obama’s running mate in 2008.

Eight years later, he called Amtrak staff “my best friends in the world.”

“I have traveled over 2,100,000 miles on Amtrak. I have made over 8,000 — roughly 8,400 round trips. I believe it’s about 257 miles a day. And these men and women have become my family,” Biden said Friday.

He admitted he’s cut back on rail travel since becoming vice president: “I only do it once a week now. Secret Service here, it drives them crazy. They want me to fly.”