Biden and Carper Meet with Amtrak Leaders in Wilmington, Delegation Vows to Fight Break-Up and Push for Emergency Funding
WILMINGTON, DE – U.S. Senators Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Tom Carper, along with Jeff Dayton, Congressman Castle’s District Director, today met with representatives from Amtrak’s management and labor unions to discuss the future of the national passenger rail system and recent cutbacks that have led to layoffs in the Wilmington and Bear facilities. During the meetings which lasted several hours, both Senators denounced the Amtrak Reform Council’s (ARC) recent recommendation to break-up the system into three separate pieces, and vowed to fight for emergency federal funding to hold the system together in the short-term and help reverse the furloughs in Delaware. Biden and Carper both agreed that ultimately, Congressional reauthorization of Amtrak and a dedicated, steady source of government support are essential if a national passenger rail system is to survive. “This is a sad time for each of the workers and their families who have got those layoff notices,” said Senator Biden. “And it is a sad time for our state when some of our last good industrial jobs are put at risk. We all know that the Delaware Amtrak maintenance shops have the most efficient and hardworking employees in the country. It’s time to put some stability and some balance in the way that we allocate funds to our nation’s transportation system.” “Tom, Mike and I are committed to fighting for additional emergency money that will help reverse the furloughs that are happening here at home,” said Senator Biden. “But we recognize that Amtrak’s problems are bigger than the short-term security issues that everyone in our country faces today. Over the decades of Amtrak’s existence, Washington has simply refused to give Amtrak the basic capital funding it needs. Right now, they have got a $5 billion backlog in capital – meaning track upgrades, bridge replacements, tunnel upgrades, locomotive overhauls – which is much of the work we do here in Delaware. “Congress and the White House must make the capital investments Amtrak needs, not thank them for thirty years of service by putting hundreds of Amtrak employees out of work,” said Carper a former member of the Amtrak Board of Directors. “The delegation is united in fighting for more funding for Amtrak. It will be a difficult fight, but it is a necessary one. Amtrak’s revenues and ridership is up on important lines. They do their job, and do it better every week. It’s Congress and the administration that fell asleep at the switches. It’s time for them to wake up.” “Passenger rail is an essential component of our nation’s transportation needs. Like air travel and highways, the federal government does need to provide adequate support,” said Congressman Castle. “The Amtrak workers at the Wilmington and Bear yards have a long history of doing outstanding work and I will be working closely with Joe and Tom to restore the jobs of those individuals who have been laid off as soon as possible.” To demonstrate the inequity in federal funding of our transportation system, the Senators noted that after September 11, in an effort to save the airlines from bankruptcy, the federal government approved a $15 billion bailout. But an effort to secure one-tenth of that funding for Amtrak to pay for immediate security needs, and upgrades to the aging tunnels along the Northeast Corridor, failed. “The reauthorization for Amtrak, has to be a top priority this year. We need to make sure it is on a sound footing with a predictable source of income, at a level that will not just make our jobs more secure, but will help us build the kind of national passenger rail system we need. No other advanced industrial country in the world underfunds passenger rail the way we do. In fact, most poor countries do better than us,” said Biden.