The Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization, and Expansion (PRIME) grant program is a new funding tool proposed by Amtrak to finance an ambitious expansion of operations. The PRIME grant program would be used to finance Amtrak 2035, Amtrak’s vision for passenger rail service by 2035 (see above). The projects financed by the PRIME grants will be built across the contiguous United States in over thirty states in every region of the country— West, Midwest, South, New England, Mid-Atlantic. It would also bring Amtrak service to some of the most populous areas without intercity rail, like Las Vegas, Nevada; Nashville, Tennessee, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; and Baton Rogue, Louisiana. Most significant for our organization, this would enable Amtrak service between New York City and Scranton.
Under language passed by the House as part of HR 2 (the Moving Forward Act), the PRIME program should prioritize projects supported by multiple states. Furthermore, at least 40% of the funds are to be made available to National Network and the Northeast Corridor, respectively, ensuring that the benefits are seen across the country.
Some projects, like proposed service between Scranton and New York City, are shovel-ready because the land has been acquired and the National Environmental Policy Act assessment has been conducted.
Despite significant population growth and changes in where people live, the Amtrak system is largely similar to what it was 1971 when Amtrak was formed. As a result, this has left Amtrak with a network that has a high level of activity in the Northeast Corridor with 140 daily trains supporting 51 million people while the combined 49 million people in Texas and Florida have only 6 trains. Furthermore, millennials have helped drive a resurgence of city living which will make intercity travel increasingly critical to enable citizens to travel between urban clusters. This new additions in service will enable Amtrak to better fit the needs of the American people and have relevant service for the 21st century.
We urge Congress to pass the PRIME grant program and allocate $3.8 billion for it each year for five years.