Maryland’s rail system bridges divides and makes life more accessible for us all; connecting us to our jobs, homes and each other, but it can be even better. We have an opportunity to make this a reality. By investing in our regional rail system, we can better connect our communities while fostering a more sustainable and inclusive economy. We’ve done it before, and we can certainly do it again.
President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is the second piece of his Build Back Better agenda. As we continue to rebuild our country from the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s imperative we utilize this opportunity to build our country back stronger than before. Reimagining a newer and stronger economy means creating millions of jobs, rebuilding our country’s infrastructure and making big bold investments in our communities that will keep our country competitive.
Congress is doing just that. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is working to provide the American people with a $547 billion transportation bill that is part of the American Jobs Plan. It will triple funding for Amtrak to $32 billion to provide funding for corridor planning and high-speed rail projects, improve rail safety and much more. This bill will make record investments to modernize our transit system, increase funding for rural transit and scale up investment in zero-emission transit. It will create good-paying jobs to rebuild and reimagine the nation’s transportation infrastructure, leaving no community behind.
For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, railroads such as the Baltimore and Ohio Rail System put Baltimore and Maryland at the center of American manufacturing and trade. But transportation by train became less popular, investments in our rail system began to slow, and railways fell into disrepair. It’s time to reinvest in our rail system. Not only can we create new jobs and improve access within Maryland, but we can also expand this access throughout the Northeast and Southeast regions.
Our neighbors in Virginia have clearly made this a priority. With Virginia’s $3.7 billion rail plan to acquire and modernize hundreds of miles of track, build a new Long Bridge over the Potomac, and establish a Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, Virginia has expanded the idea of what is possible here in Maryland.
Through our legislative work at both the state and federal level, we’re helping to make these visions a reality, laying the foundation to better connect our region, expand access to our nation’s capital and unlock new opportunities for residents on both sides of the Potomac.
The federal Long Bridge Act of 2020 will allow transfer of land between Virginia, D.C. and the National Park Service needed to construct a new bridge. The passage of the Long Bridge Act late last year was not just a win for Virginia or D.C., it also was a win for the region. A new Long Bridge span will allow a doubling of train service between Maryland and Virginia, allowing 16 MARC trains to travel from Baltimore to Northern Virginia each day. Having support from Maryland federal and state officials for this legislation sends a message back home that much can be done at the federal level to create bolder investments in our region’s infrastructure.
Additionally at the state level, the MARC Expansion of Service Act has directed the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to pilot run-through commuter train service between Maryland and Virginia as well as to Delaware, linking to Philadelphia’s SEPTA commuter rail system. Though Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed the act at the beginning of the pandemic, the Maryland General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto and the bill became law. We appreciate that the MTA is working hard to now implement the legislation.
Both bills recognize that Maryland’s economy is intertwined with the success of our neighbors. By working together on long-term generational investments, we can create a healthier, more sustainable, and more inclusive region that creates good jobs while making it easier for people to access more opportunities without leaving the region. Expanding MARC rail, run-through service to Virginia and Delaware, and a new Long Bridge are just the start for Maryland. A modernized Penn Station and a new B & Tunnel in Baltimore and a transformed Washington Union Station are next.