President Donald Trump and Congress recently took an important step toward rebuilding our nation by including significant funding for infrastructure in the newly approved $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package. As the Appropriations Committees in both houses of Congress now weigh budget considerations for the next fiscal year, they should take the next step by unlocking more federal funding for desperately needed repairs and upgrades along the Northeast Corridor rail system, which includes our nation’s most economically vital transportation infrastructure.
Stretching nearly 500 miles from Washington, D.C., to Boston, the Corridor is the economic engine of the Northeast, which collectively contains around one-third of all American jobs and generates around $3 trillion in economic productivity each year. More than 820,000 riders depend on Northeast Corridor trains every day and thousands of businesses rely on the system to conduct commerce, which is why rail delays and disruptions can lead to dramatic losses.
Research from the nonpartisan Northeast Corridor Commission has shown that a shutdown of the system would cost the American economy more than $100 million per day. Simply put, the health of the Northeast Corridor is not a local or regional issue. It is a national issue that affects every state and our ability as a nation to effectively compete on the world stage.
That is why the dire state of the Northeast Corridor’s aging infrastructure should be setting off alarm bells across Congress, and it is why federal investment is needed so urgently. The reality is that most of its railways were built in the years between the Civil War and the 1930s — and that infrastructure is crumbling and cannot last much longer.
The Northeast Corridor Commission also found that it will cost at least $50 billion over the next two decades to being the Corridor into a state of good repair up and down the line. But the longer we wait, the more expensive that price tag will become.
The Appropriations Committees can begin addressing this now by focusing on providing new federal funding to priority projects along the Corridor — all of which have a significant role to play in shoring up the system and strengthening our national economy.
For example, there is a $6.5 billion plan to modernize Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station and create 10 million square feet of transit-oriented development in surrounding areas, but it lacks the money needed to begin construction. A similarly ambitious $4.5 billion project to replace the 1.4-mile Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, which was built in 1873 and connects West Baltimore’s MARC station and Penn Station, is stalled in the planning phase.
The list of projects in need goes on and on — but Congress has the power to tackle this national economic challenge by providing the new investments needed to get the ball rolling.
Fortunately, it is clear that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have begun discussing this urgent need as part of budget negotiations. All that is needed is for both houses to build on this bipartisan consensus during appropriation discussions in order to expedite vital projects throughout the Northeast Corridor.
Modernizing America’s infrastructure is a central tenet of President Trump’s economic agenda, and the funding allocated for infrastructure in the omnibus spending bill marks important progress for workers and businesses across the country. But now it is time to ensure that critical projects along the Northeast Corridor get the help they need. The long-term health of our national economy depends on it.
Michael Friedberg is the executive director for Coalition for the Northeast Corridor.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.