Senate Bill Will Bolster Amtrak Services, Give Americans More Transportation Choices
Jul 31 2008
WASHINGTON – Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is the lead co-sponsor of a new Senate bill that increases Amtrak’s services, giving Americans more affordable transportation alternatives to driving and flying. And, by bolstering Amtrak capacity, Sen. Carper said his legislation would also create more jobs for Delawareans, while also reducing harmful emissions into our air.
“American’s are responding to high gas prices by getting out of their cars and turning to Amtrak in record numbers. Ridership at Amtrak is up 11 percent in the last year alone, taking pressure off our nation’s crowded road and highways,” Sen. Carper said. “Unfortunately, Amtrak doesn’t have enough trains to meet this growing demand. This bill puts more trains on the tracks, including newly refurbished trains that will be restored at the Amtrak facility in Bear, Delaware, and creates a domestic manufacturing base to build new train cars in the United States to serve this re-awakening of the benefits of rail.”
The “Train CARS Act” (S.3360) provides funding to encourage manufacturers who supply passenger rail cars overseas to use their modern designs and manufacturing expertise to open facilities back in the United States. This way Amtrak and our nation’s commuter rail systems can accommodate more rail passengers now and well into the future.
“Our bill would help Amtrak meet the growing demand for efficient, cost-effective and reliable alternatives to congested highways and airways, and help provide jobs for automobile and aviation workers losing jobs in the wake of high gas prices,” Sen. Carper said. “Our state of Delaware stands to gain new Amtrak jobs because much of the refurbishment of the current fleet of Amtrak trains is done in their shop in Bear.”
The legislation, introduced this week by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), takes the following steps to address the need for more U.S. passenger rail train cars and equipment:
· Creates a new federal matching grant program for Amtrak and states to rehabilitate old equipment and purchase new, U.S.-made equipment. It authorizes Amtrak to issue up to $2.8 billion in qualified bonds over the next four years to finance train car projects and encourage sale of bonds by giving buyers a credit against current year taxes.
· Ensures that any funding or tax credits are used for domestically produced train cars, and also ensures workers who produce or rehabilitate train cars are paid the prevailing wage and protected under federal railroad labor laws.
· Allows states to receive a dollar-for-dollar match on any equipment fee they impose for the purchase of new, domestically produced train cars.
· Creates a new trust fund to give Amtrak and states a secure and reliable source of capital funding to replace the nation’s rail cars by transferring, for three years, one-quarter percent of the per-gallon motor fuel tax into a Rolling Stock Trust Fund, producing about $400 million per year.
· Requires the federal government to help workers leaving the auto and aviation industries transition into rail car manufacturing, rehabilitation and maintenance.
· Directs the General Accountability Office (GAO) to study the economic impact of electrifying the passenger rail system and provide more non-oil transportation alternatives.