Sen. Carper Votes to Improve Amtrak and Passenger Rail Service and Safety

Senator's Amendment Urges Public-Private Partnerships To Revitalize Around Rail Stations

Serving on the Senate committee that oversees Amtrak, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) today voted to reform and strengthen the national passenger rail system for the 21st century.

Sen. Carper is a co-author of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007, S. 294, which reauthorizes Amtrak for six years, helps states invest in intercity passenger rail projects and authorizes rail security improvements.

"Amtrak has limped along with Band-Aids from previous Congresses, but finally it is poised to receive the intelligently designed, comprehensive assistance needed to operate a modern and safe national passenger rail system that millions of Americans can rely on each year" said Sen. Carper, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee, and a former Amtrak board member. "If the President signs this bill into law, and this Congress then provides the necessary funds, Amtrak will be 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.

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

Final Senate passage of this rail legislation, expected later this year, would end this 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.

Sen. Carper, who commutes daily between his home in Wilmington, Del., and Washington, D.C., stressed this legislation authorizes some $10 billion to help Amtrak maintain operations, upgrade equipment, and return the Northeast Corridor to a state of good repair.

The bill authorizes $1.4 billion in state grants for passenger rail capital projects, and $1.1 billion for railroad security risk assessments, passenger and freight rail security improvements, and safety and security improvements for Amtrak’s tunnels on the Northeast Corridor.

The Commerce Committee today included in this legislation an amendment from Sen. Carper that encourages redevelopment projects around train stations to boost local economic growth.