Biden celebrates Amtrak’s 50th birthday and pitches more rail investment in Philadelphia

President Joe Biden speaks during an appearance in Philadelphia on Friday, 4/30/21 (Screen Capture)

Friday afternoon was a confluence of passions for President Joe Biden, as he marked his 101st day in office by celebrating Amtrak’s 50th anniversary at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” Biden proclaimed in front of a fleet of new American-made Acela trains. “It’s an honor to celebrate Amtrak’s 50th anniversary. I look forward to a bright future for all American rail.”

Biden’s intense passion for Amtrak is practically common knowledge at this point. After his first wife and infant daughter perished in a December 1972 car accident, the then-freshman U.S. senator from Delaware would ride the rails from D.C. to Wilmington every evening. Over the decades, he’s completed thousands of round trips.

“Amtrak became my family,” Biden explained. “I used to have a Christmas party for Amtrak employees at my home. Amtrak wasn’t just a way of getting home.” 

The City of Brotherly Love also holds a place in the President’s heart.

During a 2014 visit to this station, Biden declared that “Philly is my second home city. And I married a Philly girl.” The city hosted his first Presidential fundraiser, the 2020 campaign staged their first major rally in Eakins Oval and their votes were critical to his 2020 victory. Although not all of his visits to Philadelphia were necessarily planned.

“In the past, when I’ve ended up at the 30th Street Station, it’s probably because I took the late train back from Washington and slept through the Delaware stop,” he revealed at one point. “I only did it about four times.” 

Philadelphia’s Amtrak station provided a logical spot for Biden to pitch his massive new infrastructure program. Over the years, Biden has frequently mentioned that he views infrastructure as a central battleground in the larger economic competition with China. 

“We’re way behind the rest of the world right now. We need to remember we’re in competition with the rest of the world. To win the 21st century, we’ve got to move,” he explained. “China already has 23,000 miles of high-speed rail, two-thirds of all the high-speed rail in the world. We’re behind the curve.”

“I believe that the best days for Amtrak, and for rail, and for America are ahead,” President Biden concluded. “And I must tell you, I’m anxious to see the new train.”

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A long list of Pennsylvania Democrats greeted the President on his arrival, chief among them Gov. Tom Wolf, U.S. Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District, Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, and Susan Wild, D-7th District, also were there, as was former U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.

Houlahan and Dean are both considered potential 2022 U.S. Senate candidates, and they were joined by state Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, who already has thrown his hat into the ring

David Cohen, a top Comcast executive who hosted that initial 2019 fundraiser for Biden’s campaign, was also in attendance. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Cohen is set to be named United States Ambassador to Canada.

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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, former Gov. Ed Rendell, along with Philadelphia U.S. Reps. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District and Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, all were in attendance at 30th Street Station and received shout-outs from the 46th President.

Republican National Committee spokesperson Allie Carroll responded to the president’s trip by accusing him of ignoring the migrants who are traveling to the border in order to seek asylum 

“[Friday’s] trip to Philadelphia is just the next stop on Joe Biden’s ‘anywhere but the border’ tour,” she asserted. “He must stop the political stunts and solve this border crisis immediately.”

Correspondent Nick Field covers Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow him on Twitter, @Nick_Field90.