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A loyal Amtrak rider for decades, Biden marks rail milestone in Philadelphia

Then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., waves with family members from the back of a special train in Wilmington, Del., after announcing his campaign for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination on June 9, 1987. Biden commuted to Washington, D.C., from the train station for decades while he was in the Senate. UPI Photo/File
Then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., waves with family members from the back of a special train in Wilmington, Del., after announcing his campaign for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination on June 9, 1987. Biden commuted to Washington, D.C., from the train station for decades while he was in the Senate. UPI Photo/File | License Photo

April 30 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden traveled to Philadelphia on Friday to celebrate Amtrak's 50th anniversary and call for an expansion of passenger rail service.

Biden visited the historic William H. Gray III 30th Street Station in downtown Philadelphia and gave remarks on his American Jobs Plan proposal, which includes $80 billion in federal funding to improve U.S. train service. The money is among $620 billion he's asking Congress to set aside to invest in roads, bridges, public transit, rail, ports, waterways, airports and electric vehicles.

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By comparison, a competing Republican infrastructure plan would devote $20 billion to railways.

"It's going to provide jobs, and it will also accommodate jobs," Biden said of his infrastructure proposal. "There's so much we can do. And it has an incredibly positive impact on the environment. It has an incredibly positive impact on work.

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"Amtrak doesn't just carry us from one place to another, it opens up enormous opportunities."

For decades when he was a U.S. senator, Biden was known as "Amtrak Joe" for using the train service as his main mode of transportation between his home in Wilmington, Del., and Washington, D.C. That story was repeated a number of times last year during his run for president.

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During the campaign, Biden said he made thousands of round-trip Amtrak rides between Delaware and D.C.

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Philadelphia played a key role in Biden's election last November, as mail ballots in the heavily Democratic city were crucial to his victory in the state. He and Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned heavily in Philadelphia just two days before Election Day. The city tipped the scales in Biden's favor and Pennsylvania was the state that put him over the 270-Electoral College vote threshold on Nov. 7 to make him president-elect.

In a story for Amtrak's Arrive magazine, Biden said while he's long been a supporter for transit legislation, his motives were always more personal.

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"It was the only way that I could have been a senator at all," Biden wrote for the magazine in 2010, when he was vice president of the United States. "I had to be able to get home to spend evenings with my two sons after we lost their mother and sister in an auto accident a month earlier.

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"Since then, on those many trips down to Washington, I got into a routine."

Amtrak, which has often seen financial hardship over the years and has been hurt by COVID-19, is offering 50% off coach and business class fares to celebrate its anniversary.

After leaving Philadelphia, Biden and first lady Jill Biden will take Air Force One to Wilmington for the weekend before returning to the White House on Sunday.

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