Q&A: Meet the engineer leading Amtrak’s $32B modernization

By Mike Lee | 03/11/2024 06:10 AM EDT

Laura Mason previously helped Gabon stand up its transportation department and later led emergency repair efforts for Washington’s Metrorail system.

Laura Mason is Amtrak's executive vice president of capital delivery

Laura Mason is Amtrak's executive vice president of capital delivery. Amtrak

Sometime next year, Amtrak will become one of the largest construction operations in the country, in addition to providing rail service to millions of passengers.

The bipartisan infrastructure law pumped $60 billion into passenger rail, including $22 billion dedicated to Amtrak. Since the law passed, the Federal Railroad Administration has awarded Amtrak about $10.3 billion in additional grants, part of the Biden administration’s plan to slash climate-warming emissions from transportation.

Amtrak’s spending on capital projects is projected to rise from about $1 billion a year when the infrastructure law passed to $6.1 billion a year in fiscal year 2025. That’s more than the federally owned corporation spends on operations and maintenance.


Much of that spending will go to upgrading rails, bridges and tunnels that haven’t changed much since Amtrak was created in the 1970s. The company recently signed a contract to replace the Fredrick Douglass tunnel in Baltimore, which dates to the 1870s, and work began this year on the Gateway project, a 15-year effort to replace the tunnels connecting New Jersey and New York City.