Senate Approves Emergency Funding for Amtrak

WASHINGTON, DC – Late last night, the U.S. Senate approved an emergency supplemental appropriations bill which included $55 million for safety measures that will allow Amtrak to make immediate repairs to damaged cars and overhaul and upgrade existing trains. According to U.S. Senators Joe Biden and Tom Carper, prime sponsors of the amendment, more than $14 million of that funding will go to the Amtrak shops in Wilmington and Bear, restoring as many as 30 jobs furloughed earlier this year. “This funding is a solid first step. It will allow Amtrak to make immediate repairs to unusable cars and upgrade inadequate equipment. I am especially pleased that some of this repair work will be done at the Bear and Wilmington facilities, restoring dozens of jobs in Delaware,” said Biden. “But I want to be clear – this funding is not nearly enough. Congress still needs to address Amtrak’s security and capital improvement needs and provide the ailing system with a steady and reliable stream of funding. We’re making progress, but we are nowhere near the finish line.” “If this legislation is signed into law, it could mean several millions of dollars in business for Amtrak’s two maintenance facilities located in Delaware. In addition, passage could make possible the recall of at least a portion of the Amtrak employees who were laid off at those two shops earlier this year. There are currently dozens of Amtrak passenger railcars and locomotives that sit damaged. They could be carrying passengers, they could be generating revenue for Amtrak, but today, they’re not,” Carper said. “The workers in Delaware’s Amtrak shops have the skills to put those cars and those locomotives back into service. With this appropriation, Amtrak will have the resources to put them to work. And while this appropriation helps to address a short-term need, it does not address what I believe is Amtrak’s real long-term need, and that is a dedicated source of capital funding to secure the future of national passenger rail service, not just in the northeast corridor but throughout this country.” Following is a break down of where the $55 million will go: o $20 million for wreck repairs. Amtrak now has 91 repairable wrecked passenger cars and 7 repairable wrecked locomotives out of service. The $20 million appropriated here would allow Amtrak to repair and return to service 56 of the 98 units within 12 to 18 months. o $23 million for equipment overhaul. Amtrak’s lack of capital funding has resulted in a $5 billion backlog, and this year, Amtrak had to defer its entire equipment overhaul program. The $23 million in funding provided here would allow Amtrak to begin to plan and deploy necessary resources to have this critical work performed soon. o $12 million for reimbursement of security costs. Amtrak has spent $17 million in security-related costs as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks, for additional police officers and other related upgrades. In December, as part of the Department of Defense appropriations bill, Amtrak was reimbursed $5 million. The spring supplemental would cover the rest of the amount, $12 million. This legislation must now be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, which did not include the emergency funding for Amtrak in its version of the bill.