President Obama Proposes Historic Investment for Passenger Rail in Surface Transportation Program

In a visit to St. Paul’s restored Union Depot, President Barack Obama outlined an ambitious $302 billion, 4-year investment plan for America’s roads, bridges, railways, and transit. $19 billion of that will go towards rail, with another $72 billion directed to transit.

The President was in St. Paul to celebrate the renovation of Union Depot, which returned intercity passenger trains back downtown after more than 30 years. The restoration occurred as part of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, which provides funding to projects of regional significance that generate positive economic development. Thanks to the TIGER program, Union Depot is being transformed from a dusty, overrun old building into a modern regional transit hub.

And while $600 million for intermodal projects is a pretty big deal, it was dwarfed by the $302 billion surface transportation plan, which includes a one-time infusion of $150 billion in revenue from corporate tax reform.

The President’s plan includes $19 billion in dedicated funding for rail programs. That would mean almost $5 billion each year for high performance passenger rail programs, with “a focus on improving the connections between key regional city pairs and high traffic corridors throughout the country.”

There’s reason to be cautious: this Congress hasn’t been active at the best of times, much less right before an election. But it’s an amazing thing when the President of the United States pushes for passenger trains to be included as part of a comprehensive transportation program. If enacted, it would mean predictable, sustainable levels of funding for trains, and that allows Amtrak and the states to plan, to buy new equipment, and to make much needed investments in critical infrastructure.

Expect more next week. But until then, rest assured All Aboard Minnesota and NARP will be working to advance the rights of American passengers.

Source – Narp Press Release



We all know that Amtrak’s long-distance trains have been threatened for some time and for a variety of reasons. Despite the many benefits these trains provide to the American public, they’ve been the subject of unending political attacks. 

One of the most effective arguments we can use with public officials is that the long distance trains provide people in small communities all across America with mobility. Whether it’s the Southwest Chief or the Cardinal or the Empire Builder, these trains are the only viable form of public transportation for literally millions of Americans.


The chairman of our board of directors, Bob Stewart, was recently in Garden City, Kansas, one of the communities to be affected if the Southwest Chief were to stop operating. During his visit there, Bob was approached by a nurse from St. Catherine’s Hospital. She told him that they have patients with medical problems for whom St. Catherine’s does not have the appropriate facilities or expertise. Those patients are referred to bigger and better equipped hospitals in Kansas City or Albuquerque or Chicago. And, she said, they are often transported there on the Southwest Chief!

Medical patients turning to one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains for safe, comfortable and affordable transportation can’t be unique to Garden City. It must also be happening in other communities and on other trains.  And it’s a powerful argument to use with the politicians who are looking for excuses to shut down Amtrak’s long-distance network.


Do you have any personal knowledge of long-distance trains transporting people in need of specialized medical services from rural communities to big-city medical facilities? If so, please email me at [email protected], and I’ll follow up with you to find out all the details so we can strengthen our case for the nation’s long-distance trains (you can also submit information anonymously online, if you’d prefer). Of course, your privacy will be respected and any information provided will be held in strict confidence.

As always, thank you for your advocacy of passenger trains and for supporting NARP’s and All Aboard Minnesota efforts in our common cause.

Content supplied by Narp