Biden and Carper Secure $1.2 Billion for Amtrak in Senate Budget

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Senators Joe Biden and Tom Carper applauded Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) for including $1.2 billion for Amtrak in the fiscal year 2003 budget resolution. Earlier this month, Biden and Carper were joined by 49 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Chairman Conrad urging him to include $1.2 billion in this year’s budget. This vital funding would allow Amtrak to improve its infrastructure, upgrade security, and enable Amtrak to continue operating routes nationwide. In their letter, the Senators noted: “Since 1971, Amtrak has sought to balance competing public service and commercial objectives – most recently embodied in the “operational self-sufficiency mandate” – without adequate resources to deliver either objective fully. Funding for America’s passenger railroad has barely been enough to keep the system operating on a year-to-year basis, but insufficient to meet its longer-term public service mission much less its capital obligations. If Amtrak continues to be underfunded, it will ultimately result in even greater costs to this country as the passenger rail network deteriorates due to short-term budget constraints.” Last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General assessed Amtrak’s infrastructure needs at $1 billion to $1.5 billion annually over the next 20 years. The $1.2 billion included in the FY 2003 Senate budget provides $679 million more than the Administration included in their budget proposal. “Including this funding in the budget is a good first step,” said Senator Biden. “Now, Congress must follow through on its commitment by appropriating the $1.2 billion Amtrak needs to run a truly national, efficient, and safe passenger rail system. “The Senate is on the right track and the majority of members are on board in support of national passenger rail,” said Senator Carper. “This is a significant step forward to preserve Amtrak’s future.” Additionally, Senators Biden and Carper are cosponsors of the “National Defense Interstate Rail Act.” This bill would authorize $4.6 billion a year for the next five years, allowing Amtrak to do capital maintenance, upgrade existing equipment and routes, and develop and expand additional high speed rail corridors. The Senate budget plan is not binding but serves as an overall framework for the Congressional appropriators who make spending decisions.