January 17, 2007

CARDIN CO-SPONSORS RAIL BILL TO IMPROVE AMTRAK AND MARC SERVICE

Bill Calls For Greater Oversight and State Input

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Susan Sullam, 410-962-4436/

Oren Shur, 202-224-4524


WASHINGTON U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) announced today he will co-sponsor legislation to provide an average of $1.9 billion annually over the next six years for capital improvements and operating costs to substantially improve Amtrak and MARC service. The bill also would create a new intercity passenger rail capital grant program for States to help improve service, equipment and operations.

This bill is a step in the right direction because it establishes a new capital spending plan aimed at returning the Northeast Corridor to health. Amtrak and MARC are critical to meeting Marylands transportation needs and to reducing gasoline consumption. This measure provides us with the tools we need to meet the needs the thousands of commuters and rail passengers who use Amtrak and MARC every day, said Sen. Cardin, a member of the Budget Committee.

The Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston, via Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark and New York, is Amtraks profitable network, carrying more than 10 million intercity passengers in FY 2006. In Maryland, over the last 10 years, MARC ridership has grown from 18,500 to more than 30,000.

According to the Senator, Amtrak cannot add more MARC trains until infrastructure improvements are made. Ridership has grown to capacity and the need for additional infrastructure capacity is acute, he said.

The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act is a six-year reauthorization that would:

"Create a new State Capital grant program for intercity passenger rail capital projects. The federal match would be 80%;
"Require the development of a capital spending plan to return Amtrak to health by 2012;
"Require a financial accounting system for Amtrak operations and a five-year financial plan;
"Renegotiate Amtraks debt within one year;
"Establish a new, nine-member bipartisan board and an advisory commission to provide oversight;
"Establish a method of assigning costs and determining compensation for State supported services;
"Establishment of a system-wide performance improvement plan; and,
"Updated requirements for passenger and freight rail security and tunnel life/safety.

Amtrak has a network of 22,000 miles of routes serving 500 communities in 46 states and Canada. In fiscal year 2006, Amtrak served an estimated 25 million passengers.