Biden Rail Chief Confirmed as Administration Begins Funding Push

  • Bose to oversee surge in rail money from infrastructure law
  • ‘Second great railroad revolution’ promised by Biden

President Joe Biden has a new Senate-confirmed leader to facilitate major spending for rail from the recently enacted infrastructure law.

Amitabha Bose won confirmation by a vote of 68-29 on Wednesday, more than eight months after Biden nominated him to be administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

“From the Gulf Coast to the West Coast; from the Pacific Northwest to the Northeast Corridor; from where I grew up in Georgia to the heartland—and all across this country—people are eager for expanded rail options,” Bose told senators during his nomination hearing.

Democrats have been urging the quick confirmation of Transportation Department officials to help carry out the more than $1 trillion infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58), which included $66 billion for rail. Since the campaign trail, Biden has been promising the “second great railroad revolution.” The law provides the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak, the White House said.

In addition to getting the money out the door quickly, Bose is tasked with ensuring funds meet the administration’s broader climate and equity goals. Rail agency officials are weighing whether minority-owned and woman-owned businesses need more contracting support, Bose said at a conference Monday.

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Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
The Cedar viaduct stands during construction of a high-speed rail project through California’s Central Valley in Fresno on Aug. 26, 2021.

Supply Chain, High-Speed Train

Bose, as deputy administrator at the FRA since January, has already opened funding, toured projects, and helped address supply chain delays. He visited the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach last month.

“The reductions in port congestion over these past weeks demonstrate we’re making progress in alleviating supply chain stress,” Bose said after the visit. There’s still “work to do,” he said, and the agency has been in weekly contact with large rail carriers.

Bose held various positions at the agency during the Obama administration. He also worked for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, in Congress as a transportation staffer, and in the private sector. The White House cited his involvement in such high profile rail projects as the Northeast Corridor Gateway Program and California’s controversial high-speed rail when announcing his nomination.

The California project, which Republicans oppose over its delays and costs, marks a shift in the federal government’s approach to rail under Biden. Federal officials are returning almost $1 billion to the project that the Trump administration rescinded. Bose recently visited construction sites and met with the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

“This visit underscores the continued collaboration between the Authority and the Federal Government,” the authority’s CEO Brian Kelly said in a statement last month.

Other Transportation Nominees

Bose is one of the only Transportation Department officials who didn’t need to be renominated in the new year after many of the administration’s nominations expired.

Republican objections have stalled other transportation nominations. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who has a hold on other DOT nominees, said he won’t lift his objections until there is a committee oversight hearing with Biden officials about the supply chain.

The delays drew Democratic criticism. “We’re giving a bunch of money to the Federal Railroad Administration so they can put grants out, authorize this new program for at-grade crossings to improve the speed of moving out product and people don’t want the FRA, the Federal Railroad Administration, to have an administrator,” Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said on the Senate floor last month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at lbyington@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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