Fact check: Biden didn’t reference building rail line from ‘Florida to Tampa’

The claim: Biden said he planned to build a rail line “from Florida to Tampa,” Fla.

Throughout President Joe Biden’s political career, his frequent verbal gaffes and adamant love for Amtrak have been among his most distinguishing traits. After he spoke at Amtrak’s 50th-anniversary celebration on April 30, online adversaries leveraged the two to criticize the president. 

“From Florida to Tampa? The dementia was on full display as Emperor Joe served up another steaming pile of word salad,” reads a May 1 Facebook post. 

This plan would not make sense as Tampa is located in Florida.

But this is not what the president said.

Fact check: No, The Washington Post is not done fact-checking Biden

The Facebook user that posted the claim did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Biden did not say he plans to build a high-speed rail to Tampa

At the April 30 event, Biden discussed how high-speed rails can offer an environmentally-friendly option for travelers. This comes after Biden introduced plans to grant Amtrak $80 billion on March 31 for rail expansions and improvements as part of his American Jobs Plan.

Biden described a budget he created for Amtrak while serving as vice president in the Obama administration.

These plans, which were never implemented in Florida, were part of the Recovery Act of 2009. He said:

“And so, you know, if you think about it. When we were — when I was Vice President with Barack, he allowed me to put together a budget for Amtrak. And it had money for high-speed rail at 200 miles an hour from — from Char- — excuse me, from Charlotte — one — and another line going from — in Florida down to Tampa. Another line — if we had moved, Gov, we’d have that tunnel fixed in New York now. The money was there to get it done. There’s so much we can do.”

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While Biden did briefly say “from,” he immediately corrected himself to say “in” Florida.

Archived documentation from the Department of Transportation, shows the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program proposed using grants from the Recovery Act to build a high-speed rail between Tampa and Orlando. Ultimately, the plan was to build another passenger rail from Orlando to Miami.

The program also included plans to develop a high-speed rail between Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., with major stops in Raleigh and Richmond, Virginia. 

Florida never saw the plans through. In February 2011, Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal grants for the project. Scott cited concerns that the project would ultimately cost Florida taxpayers.

Then Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gives a thumbs up after speaking to supporters before boarding his train with his wife Jill Biden, right, at Amtrak's Cleveland Lakefront train station on Sept. 30, 2020. (Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP)

Proposed American Jobs Plan would grant money for Amtrak expansion

Since becoming president, Biden introduced his $2 trillion American Jobs plan. If passed, this plan would grant $80 billion to Amtrak. Amtrak released potential plans to improve and expand its service across America.

“If Congress provides the funding proposed in the President’s plan, Amtrak would be able to bring the NEC (Northeast Corridor) to a state of good repair and improve trip times, and would also expand Amtrak to underserved communities across the nation,” reads a March 31 press release.

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Amtrak’s map of proposed improvements includes new services to Tampa and around Florida. 

This proposed government funding is far from new. Amtrak, a private corporation also known as The National Rail Passenger Corporation, was first established with funding from Congress as part of the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970. Congress has granted Amtrak funding every year since. 

Our rating: False

We rate the claim that President Joe Biden said he plans to build a high-speed rail from Tampa to Florida FALSE, because it is not supported by our research. At Amtrak’s 50th anniversary celebration on April 30, Biden described a budget he made for Amtrak during his vice presidency. He misspoke but immediately corrected himself. While Biden has proposed funding for Amtrak expansion, he has not said he plans to build a rail between Florida and Tampa.

Our fact-check sources:

  • YouTube, USA TODAY, April 30, President Biden remarks on Amtrak’s 50th anniversary | USA TODAY
  • Politico, April 2, How high speed trains got railroaded in Biden’s infrastructure plan
  • Waybackmachine, USDOT, archived Feb. 10, 2010FRA and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
  • Waybackmachine, USDOT, archived Feb. 16, 2010, High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, Tampa – Orlando – Miami
  • Waybackmachine, USDOT, archived May 27, 2010, High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, Charlotte – Raleigh – Richmond – Washington, D.C.
  • CNN, Feb. 21, 2011, States hope to cash in on Florida’s rejection of rail funds
  • USA TODAY, April 1, Las Vegas, Nashville, Phoenix and more: Amtrak would expand, connect new cities under Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan
  • Amtrak, March 31, STATEMENT FROM AMTRAK CEO ON PRESIDENT BIDEN’S AMERICAN JOBS PLAN
  • Amtrak, accessed May 2, proposed service expansion map
  • U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Association, Nov. 1, 2019, Amtrak
  • U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Association, Federal Grants to Amtrak

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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