Biden Announces New Investments in Passenger Rail Projects

President Biden, perhaps Amtrak’s most famous advocate, announced $16.4 billion in funding for rail projects on Monday, exhibiting a business-as-usual approach as polls show him trailing former President Donald J. Trump one year before Election Day.

Speaking at a maintenance warehouse where Amtrak trains are serviced in Bear, Del., Mr. Biden made no mention of the polling from The New York Times and Siena College polls.

Instead, he offered familiar anecdotes about his days as a senator, when a conductor named Angelo would call him “Joey, baby!” and squeeze his cheeks as he made the 90-minute ride between Washington and his home in Wilmington, Del.

Mr. Biden also promoted the $1 trillion infrastructure law he signed into law two years ago, which included $66 billion for investments in rail systems.

“I’ve been talking about this a long time, I know. But finally, finally we’re getting it done,” Mr. Biden said of the funding. “I know how much it matters,” he added, describing a railway system more than a century old and in dire need of repairs.

“If this line were to shut down for just one day, it would cost our American economy $100 million a day,” Mr. Biden said.

Democratic strategists said Mr. Biden is making a point to stay on message, despite polling that showed voters in battleground states said they trusted Mr. Trump over Mr. Biden on the economy, foreign policy and immigration.

The White House has brushed off the polls, saying Mr. Biden still has a year to campaign and that polls have historically failed to predict the results of elections when taken a year ahead of time.

“It’s fine he’s doing an Amtrak event; it’s very on brand,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who served as White House communications director for President Barack Obama.

“What they have to do is stick with the drumbeat on economic gains,” Ms. Palmieri said. “You need to spend time telling people: ‘We have gotten a lot done. We will get more done.’”

Even before the Times/Siena polling, Democrats for months expressed dismay over Mr. Biden’s persistently low approval ratings, concerns about his age and a slew of other polls showing him neck and neck with his four-times-indicted predecessor in a hypothetical rematch.

“This election is a choice,” Quentin Fulks, the principal deputy campaign manager for Mr. Biden, said Sunday on MSNBC.

“It’s a choice and a contrast that we’re drawing to make sure that voters know President Biden is working to cap the cost of insulin, to lower costs for middle-class families — in stark contrast with the Republican Party who want to provide tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations,” he said.

Mr. Biden also slammed Republicans on Monday for seeking to cut funding for infrastructure and other administration priorities.

The $16.4 billion that Mr. Biden announced will go toward 25 passenger rail projects along the Northeast Corridor.

Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, attributed years of underfunding to Amtrak to “a lack of ambition, a lack of resources and a lack of political will” that have contributed to disruptions and delays.

He called the new investments “critical,” saying they show “America is finally beginning to put its money where its mouth is.”

Twelve of the projects will be led by Amtrak. Among them will be about $2 billion for the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge project in Maryland, about $1.3 billion for the East River tunnel project in New York and about $827 million to replace the Connecticut River Bridge.

The largest award announced will go toward repairing the 1.4-mile tunnel that runs under residential Baltimore previously known as the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel. The tunnel has been renamed after Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in Maryland before escaping north and becoming a renowned abolitionist. About $4.7 billion will go toward replacing the tunnel with a new one that would allow speeds to increase from 30 to 110 miles per hour. It is the slowest section of the mainline track between Washington and New York City.

“These grants will help advance Amtrak’s plans to modernize the Northeast Corridor and unlock major bottlenecks on the busiest passenger rail corridor in America,” Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The other 13 projects being done in the Northeast Corridor will be led by Amtrak partners, including funding for the contentious Gateway project in New York and New Jersey.

The second-largest investment will be about $3.8 billion going toward the Hudson River tunnel project. The tunnel is a part of Gateway, which began under the Obama administration. The project suffered extensive delays and setbacks after the Trump administration broke a promise on federal funding for the project.

The Biden administration said the 25 projects would create more than 100,000 union jobs.