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Remarks on Announcement of Rail Expansion and Improvement in Virginia

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by 
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg 
Announcement of Rail Expansion and Improvement in Virginia 
Alexandria Amtrak/Virginia Railway Express Station, Virginia 
March 30, 2021 

 

Good morning -- I’m honored to be here.  

Today, we celebrate an expansion of rail service that will reduce congestion, boost the economy, and make life better for people across the Commonwealth of Virginia. We celebrate a collaboration among federal, state, and private sector partners to make the type of transformational investment our country needs—and our communities deserve. And I want to thank everyone here who made that possible.  

Every day, at stations like this across America, our transportation workers have been serving on the frontlines of this pandemic.  

They've been delivering vaccines, getting people to essential jobs, and getting goods to wherever they need to go. 

Their service has been heroic. But the challenges, facing them and our entire transportation system, have been daunting. Too many workers have worried about their next paycheck. Too many passengers have worried about how they’d get to work.   

We’re proud to say: help is here. 

Because of the American Rescue Plan that Senator Warner, Senator Kaine, and Congressman Beyer voted for, more than $43 billion is going to support our nation’s transportation system and its workers.  

And it’s fitting that we have gathered here, at an Amtrak station, to show exactly how the ARP is going to help. The Rescue Plan contains $1.7 billion for Amtrak to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID.  

The funds provide much needed assistance that will allow Amtrak to return more than 1,000 furloughed employees to work, and maintain critical rail service to passengers across the country. 

And it’s already having a positive impact. After the passage of ARP, Amtrak announced they restored 12 long distance routes to 7-day a week operations, including the Crescent, Palmetto, Silver Star and Silver Meteor routes right here in Alexandria, VA. This means people will be able to continue to reach the jobs, services, and families that are waiting on the other side of that train ride. 

And just across the way here, you can see the King Street Metro Station. So I wanted to also touch on what the Rescue Plan does for public transit.  

The Rescue Plan has more than $30 billion in funding for public transit agencies, which helps them avoid layoffs and service cuts. We know those cuts disproportionately harm workers who depend on public transportation, including many essential workers. So this was a matter of equity, and it was a matter of doing right by so many of the heroes of the pandemic. 

In the Washington Metropolitan area, $1.4 billion has been set aside under the American Rescue Plan to provide economic relief to transit operators in the Washington DC area, Maryland suburbs and northern Virginia. This includes WMATA and other transit operators. 

In addition to getting medical professionals to their hospitals and food workers to their grocery stores, and everything in between, transit workers across the country have stepped up in incredible ways during the pandemic. 

Last month, in rural Levelland, Texas, SPARTAN, the local public transit agency, retrofitted its brand-new transit facility to be the community’s first mass vaccination site. In a single day, SPARTAN’s vaccine clinic vaccinated nearly 1,000 people. 

And in Jacksonville, FL, the Transportation Authority helped launch “Wellness on Wheels,” a mobile vaccine service that ensures seniors and underserved communities have an opportunity to secure a vaccination. 

The American Rescue Plan will support efforts like these.  It also includes dedicated funds to help rural transit agencies, transit service for the elderly and individuals with disabilities, and transit on Tribal lands. 

With the American Rescue Plan, help is here. And it’s just the first step.  

The project that you are celebrating today will help people across the region. And we’ll see success stories like it written in communities large and small across the country if we seize this moment and make the kind of generational investment in infrastructure that the President will be announcing very soon.   

And with that, I’ll hand it back over to Secretary Valentine.