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Amtrak Unveils Avelia Liberty Trainsets—“Future of Train Travel”

August 26, 2016

Release #16-21

For Immediate Release (#16-21)

Contact: Robert Brady – (202) 680-4951

NARP Applauds Federal Loan to Bolster U.S. Transportation Infrastructure

Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Railroad Passengers was on hand at today’s event in Wilmington, Delaware, where Vice President Joe Biden announced $2.45 billion in federally secured loans to support Amtrak’s purchase of new high-speed trainsets for the Northeast Corridor, station upgrades, and track improvements.

“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,” Vice President Biden said. “We need these kinds of investments to keep this region – and our whole country – moving, and to create new jobs.”

The new equipment, which Amtrak called “the largest single investment in passenger rail in the history of the United States,” will incorporate cutting edge technology and will be capable of achieving speeds in excess of 180 miles per hour—though upgrades to the Northeast Corridor infrastructure would be required before that could happen.

“We can’t buy these trains and send them out to run on the tracks we have now,” said Delaware Senator Thomas Carper, who attended the event. “There’s a requirement for the Congress to step up.”

The trainsets will be designed and manufactured by the French company Alstom at its Hornell and Rochester, New York facilities, creating 400 local jobs. The new equipment will help Amtrak phase out the current Acela trains, providing enhanced amenities and additional seats capable of carrying 30 percent more passengers.

NARP President Jim Mathews was on hand at Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station, named after the train-loving Vice President, who famously maintained his house and family in Delaware by using Amtrak to commute daily between Wilmington and Washington, D.C. throughout his Congressional career.

“This is a red letter day in American railroading, and I’m proud to be on hand to represent the nation’s passengers,” said Mathews. “We applaud the Obama Administration and Amtrak for working together on this project. With year after year of surging demand, the additional capacity is desperately needed—not only on the Northeast Corridor, but across the national network. NARP echoes Senator Carper’s demand that Congress step up and do the right thing: provide a dedicated source of funding for passenger rail projects like these.”

Unlocking Investment

The loan comes from the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan program. The program was designed to provide affordable financing for Class II and Class III freight railroads. Congress expanded RRIF eligibility to passenger rail and dramatically increased the program’s loan and loan guarantee authority to $35 billion—however, the program has been woefully underutilized, with applicants complaining of an opaque and lengthy application process.

NARP applauds Congress for working with the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation to unlock RRIF. The bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization act passed by Congress in 2015 streamlined the application process, shortened review time, and expanded eligibility to include transit and station development. Today’s announcement demonstrates that the U.S. DOT has clearly taken Congress’ directives seriously.

If executed properly, RRIF has the power to leverage tens of millions of dollars in revenue and grants into billions in infrastructure investment.

About the National Association of Railroad Passengers

NARP is the only national organization speaking for the nearly 40 million users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by more than 28,000 individual members nationwide.