WASHINGTON - As Republicans continued to block Democratic efforts to pass legislation to help Americans cope with higher gas prices, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) hailed House passage of a bill to reinvest in passenger rail and reform Amtrak as a positive step Congress is taking to help Americans who want relief at the pump.
"One of the best ways we can help Americans struggling with higher gas prices is give them transportation alternatives, like a healthy and vital Amtrak," said Sen. Carper, who commutes almost daily from Wilmington to Washington, D.C. on Amtrak. "As gas prices have increased, so has Amtrak ridership, because Americans are desperate for transportation alternatives that are more fuel efficient and are good for the environment. This bill puts Amtrak on track to be more self-sufficient; makes for safer, faster travel; protects Amtrak jobs; and means federal operating subsidies will be redirected to innovative revitalization projects like those planned near the Wilmington train station."
The House late today passed the Amtrak bill by a vote of 311-104. In the coming weeks, Sen. Carper, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and a former Amtrak board member, said he will encourage the House and Senate to quickly resolve any differences between their two Amtrak bills and send the legislation to the President for his signature. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007 (S.294) will reauthorize Amtrak for six years, help states invest in intercity passenger rail projects and authorize about $10 billion to help Amtrak maintain operations, upgrade equipment and security and return the Northeast Corridor to a state of good repair. It also will provide Amtrak and states with a comprehensive blueprint to improve the nation's intercity passenger rail system, so important to Delaware.
Amtrak operates about 90 trains daily through Delaware, making Wilmington the 11th busiest station in the national Amtrak system. Last year, the Amtrak spent $5.96 million for goods and services in Delaware.
Sen. Carper stressed nationwide, Amtrak ridership increased by 10 percent in May, and in the Wilmington-Philadelphia area, public transit use increased 10.4 percent.
In 1970, Congress created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, also known as Amtrak, to spur use and development of passenger rail. Today Amtrak serves nearly 26 million riders each year at more than 500 stations in 46 states on some 22,000 route miles.
Sen. Carper pointed out that Congress could have taken more action to help Delawareans defray the high cost of gas by passing the Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008 (S.3044), which failed to win sufficient support this week to allow Senate debate of this important energy legislation.
"Sadly, as the price of gasoline continues to rise, Republicans blocked consideration of Senate legislation to fight price gouging and speculation that continues to help drive gas prices ever higher," said Sen. Carper.
The energy bill, which failed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Tuesday, was crafted to address the root causes of high gas prices, to hold oil companies accountable for sky-high costs and to encourage energy companies to invest in renewable energy sources, a priority for Sen. Carper.