Biden awards more than $1.4 billion to improve rail safety

Biden awards more than $1.4 billion to improve rail safety

The Biden administration said Monday it has awarded more than $1.4 billion to projects that enhance railway safety and boost capacity, with much of the money coming from the 2021 infrastructure law.

The transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, said in a statement.

The money is being used to finance 70 projects across 35 states and Washington, D.C. Railroad safety has become a key concern every year since a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed and caught fire in East Palestine, Ohio. Biden has ordered federal agencies to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for the crash, but a package of proposed rail safety reforms has stalled in the Senate, where the bill is awaiting a vote. The White House is saying that a possible government shutdown because of House Republicans would weaken railway safety.

The projects include maintenance and repair of tracks, as well as improving the connectivity among railways and making routes less prone to extreme weather.

Among the projects is $178.4 million to restore passenger service in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi for the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf of Mexico in 2005.

The grant will allow Amtrak to restore passenger service to the Gulf Coast, as Amtrak reached an agreement with CSX and Norfolk Southern Railroads last year to clear the way for passenger trains to resume operating on the tracks the freight railroads own.

''It has been a long process to return passengers to the Gulf Coast since it was knocked offline by Hurricane Katrina. That 17-year journey has been filled with obstacles and frustration - but also moments of joy, where local champions and national advocates were able to come together around the idea of a more connected Gulf Coast region, said Rail Passengers Association President & CEO Jim Mathews.

The Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad in Washington state will get $72.8 million to upgrade the track and related infrastructure to allow that rail line to handle modern 286,000-pound railcars.

A project in Kentucky will receive $29.5 million to improve 280 miles of track and other infrastructure along the Paducah and Louisville Railway.

In Tennessee, $23.7 million is set to help upgrade about 42 bridges on 10 different short-line railroads.