The Department of Transportation is awarding $745 million to railways in a part of the country where Republicans want to privatize service, officials announced Monday.
The money will be used for funding along the Northeast Corridor, which Republicans in the House have pushed to take from Amtrak and privatize. The money will be used for improvements that will eventually allow Acela high-speed trains to move up to 186 miles per hour, the DOT said.
“These grants are a win for our economy and a win for commuters all along the Northeast Corridor,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We are creating new construction jobs, ordering American-made supplies and improving transportation opportunities across a region where 50 million Americans live and work.”
One of the reasons Republicans have argued that rail service in the Northeast — the only region where Amtrak owns the tracks its trains operate on — should be privatized is because Acela trains did not move fast enough to truly be considered high-speed rail. Current Acela trains in the Northeast can reach speeds as high as 150 miles per hour, but they average far less than that on most stretches where they share tracks with regular Amtrak trains.
Democrats sharply objected to the GOP's privatization plan, arguing that Amtrak service was essential to the Northeast and that the agency had the best experience in running long-distance passenger railways in the U.S.
Officials said the money being awarded to the Northeast Corridor would also increase on-time performance and reliability of Acela trains, as well as ease congestion coming out of New York City stations.