PHILADELPHIA – President Biden returned Friday to a place that is almost as attached to his identity as his decades of persecution of the presidency: Amtrak Station.
This time, however, Mr. Biden did not launch a presidential campaign from the back of the train in Wilmington, Del., As in 1987. He barely had time to rub with commuters, an everyday tradition in his decades in the Senate.
And he flew to the city on Air Force One.
“I drove the Amtrak almost as long as the Amtrak,” said Mr. Biden from the podium in the chapel, where he celebrated the 50th anniversary of the railroad service, and remembered a conductor named Angelo who would call him “Joey,”
The president came to Philadelphia to present his $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal, which critics say is too lengthy, with spending on a variety of topics such as broadband and care for older Americans and people with disabilities, and projects designed to combat with racial differences. His appearance on Friday was a message to Republicans that his plan includes a lot of money for more traditional projects, such as railroads and bridges.
Mr Biden’s economic proposal calls for increased funding for rail projects by $ 80 billion, including improvements to Amtrak’s high-traffic corridor from Washington to Boston and expanded service to 160 communities, including Las Vegas, Nashville, Atlanta and Houston.
The agency typically receives nearly $ 2 billion in annual appropriations in Congress. Republicans opposed $ 20 billion in rail investment.
The president spent much of his time considering his relationship with Amtrak.
He began traveling on the train in the earliest days of the patched-up federal railroad in the 1970s, when he traveled to Delaware every night to care for his two sons, Hunter and Bo, after his wife and his little daughter was killed in a car accident.
Many politicians emphasized their origins in the day. (The image of Abraham Lincoln as a rail splitter was an advertisement at the beginning of the campaign.) Mr. Biden earned his nickname as “Amtrak Joe” by making about 8,000 round trips. He often sat in a window seat and read the newspaper in the morning light on the way to the Capitol.
He would talk to other people, including Greg Weaver, a retired Amtrak worker whose son Blake Weaver described the president on Friday as “one of Amtrak’s most frequent riders.”
Greg Weaver said Mr. Biden has always asked about his children and parents.
He was “just another passenger on the train,” Mr. Weaver said.
But Mr. Biden offered some privileges. He would invite some Amtrak employees to Christmas parties at his home in Delaware. When he begins to ride in a presidential environment, he often apologizes to his passengers for the lack of space and warns reporters who block the way to the seats.
Mr Biden was quick to remind the crowd of Amtrak officials, members of Congress and local officials that Friday’s trip was not his first visit to William H. Gray III’s 30th Street.
“It’s probably because I took the late train back from Washington and slept at the Delaware station,” he said. I only did it about four times.
Mr Biden also referred to his story in defending the railroad service on the Senate floor. When the Bush administration proposed a restructuring of Amtrak that would rely on states to cover part of its deficit, he called it a “cockam.”
In 2016, he announced a federal loan that would pay for a new high-speed Acela. One such train was behind him as he spoke on Friday.
He had even planned to recreate his 90-minute trip from Wilmington to Washington to take the oath of office as president, but this was canceled due to security concerns.
Just as he did this week during his first address to a joint session of Congress, Mr Biden emphasized that investment would not only fight climate change, but also create jobs. He made a direct appeal to workers in his speech to Congress, saying that 90 percent of the jobs created under his plan would not require higher education.
On Friday, Biden said encouraging more people to drive Amtrak instead of driving cars or trucks would benefit the environment. The plan to expand the service will also link large cities and employment opportunities with underserved communities, he argued.
“It will provide jobs and shelter jobs,” the president said. “That means cities that were in danger of being abandoned and abandoned will be back in the game.”
But Mr Biden’s attempts to expand Amtrak’s lines will face challenges. The growing debate over whether to restore the service between Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans could be a visualization.
The White House says increased service will help reverse construction projects that have fueled racial differences. But in Mobile, the municipality’s mobile governor, Joel Daves, said all the city’s money spent on expanding rail services in the Gulf corridor was simply funding a “joyous journey for the rich.”
Freight companies – which own most of the United States’ railroads – also argued with Amtrak over concerns that rail sharing could hurt businesses. Amtrak’s petition to restore the service is before the Surface Transport Council.
“President Biden sees the importance of passenger connectivity for cities and towns,” said John Robert Smith, former chairman of the board of Amtrak. “Unless the impasse is resolved between the interests of freight railways and the aspirations of passenger rail transport, then the broad vision of any of the countries for passenger rail transport is not a vision but a hallucination.”
Jim Matthews, chief executive of the Railway Passengers Association, an advocacy group, said in an interview that Mr Biden’s support would boost Congress “for transformational discussions.”
But on Friday, Mr. Biden did not return to Washington to lobby MPs. After his speech, he traveled to Delaware – this time not on the train, but in a presidential motorcade.
Zolan Kano-Young reports from Philadelphia and Pranshu Verma from Washington.