Sens. Biden and Carper Support Amtrak, Passenger Rail Service and Safety

Bill Includes Carper Amendment to Revitalize Areas Around Rail Stations

Today the Senate overwhelmingly passed an Amtrak bill supported by Sens. Joe Biden and Tom Carper (both D-Del.) to reform and strengthen the national passenger rail system for the 21st century.

Both Sens. Biden and Carper are original co-sponsors of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007, S. 294, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 70-22. The bill reauthorizes Amtrak for six years, helps states invest in intercity passenger rail projects and authorizes some $10 billion to help Amtrak maintain operations, upgrade equipment and security and return the Northeast Corridor to a state of good repair.

"This bill is a resounding, bipartisan vote of confidence in America’s rail system," Sen. Biden said. "As an almost daily commuter on Amtrak, I’ve seen first-hand the need to prioritize the increased security and efficiency of our railroads. This is good funding that will provide safer, faster travel and create jobs in our Delaware shops."

"Passage today of this six-year reauthorization bill means Amtrak will finally receive the comprehensive assistance needed to operate a modern and safe national passenger rail system that millions of Americans rely on each year," said Sen. Carper, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and a former Amtrak board member who commutes daily from Wilmington to Washington, D.C. on Amtrak. "This bill puts Amtrak on track to be more self-sufficient, and allow federal operating subsidies to be redirected to innovative revitalization projects like those planned near the Wilmington train station."

The legislation authorizes funding for Amtrak’s capital and operating needs to maintain current operations, upgrade equipment and return the Northeast Corridor to a state of good repair.  Over the life of the bill, Amtrak’s operating subsidy is reduced by 40 percent through cost cutting, restructuring, and reform, while capital funding to Amtrak is increased.  The bill also creates a new intercity passenger rail capital grant program for the states.

A previous version of the legislation included key rail security provisions, advocated for by Sen. Biden immediately following the attacks of 9/11, which were passed earlier this year along with other recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

The legislation also includes a provision from Sen. Carper that encourages redevelopment projects around train stations to boost local economic growth. The House of Representatives must now act on its own Amtrak bill, and that legislation must be reconciled with this Senate bill before it eventually goes to the President to sign into law.

Amtrak operates about 90 trains daily through Delaware, and Wilmington is the 11th busiest station in the national Amtrak system. Last year, the Amtrak spent $5.96 million for goods and services in Delaware.

Since Amtrak’s last authorization expired in 2002, the company has been funded through Congress’s annual appropriations process, without consistent guidance on how funds should be spent or a clear direction to improve rail service nationwide. This funding uncertainty was challenging for Amtrak’s riders, employees and leadership.

Final Senate passage of this rail legislation now ends years of stop-gap passenger rail policy and funding by reauthorizing Amtrak through 2012. It also provides Amtrak and states with a comprehensive blueprint to continually improve the nation’s intercity passenger rail system, so important to the state of Delaware.

In 1970, Congress created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, also known as Amtrak, to spur use and development of passenger rail. Today Amtrak serves nearly 26 million riders each year at more than 500 stations in 46 states on some 22,000 route miles.