SENATOR CARDIN PRAISES SENATE PASSAGE OF AMTRAK FUNDING MEASURE
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), today praised Senate passage of the Amtrak reauthorization bill, calling it "an investment in America's infrastructure that will improve passenger service and help reduce traffic congestion on our nation's roads." The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 70 to 22.
The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act , S. 294, invests $10 billion in capital and operating needs through 2011 to maintain current operations, upgrade equipment and return Amtrak's Northeast Corridor (NEC) to good repair. The bill includes a number of management reforms as well as operational improvements. Since 2002, Amtrak has been funded through annual appropriations bills, which do not include an overall strategy for Amtrak's future.
"Our nation receives extraordinary public benefit from mass transportation systems," said Senator Cardin. "They take thousands of cars off our congested highways. They take tons of pollutants out of the air we breathe. They move people efficiently into and out of our most important commercial centers."
Amtrak operates approximately 90 trains daily in Maryland, mostly on the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor through Baltimore Penn Station and New Carrollton. In addition to Northeast Corridor service including Acela Express, Regional and Metroliner trains, Amtrak operates five long-distance trains through Maryland as well as two regional trains.
More than 1.7 million passengers board and disembark at Maryland's Amtrak stations every year. And those numbers are increasing. Amtrak's fiscal 2007 ridership topped 25.8 million. That's the fifth year in a row that Amtrak has seen growth in its passenger service. It also sets a record for the highest ridership that Amtrak has seen since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation was created in 1971.
Amtrak, which employs more than 2,500 Marylanders, operates weekday MARC commuter rail service on the Northeast Corridor (Washington-Baltimore-Perryville) under a contract with the Maryland Transit Administration. It has a shared capital agreement with the state. Both Amtrak and the state of Maryland invest in joint benefit improvements, including an investment of $28 million by the state in 2006.
Senator Cardin also pointed to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommendations as an additional reason to provide more funding for mass transportation. It is expected that BRAC will bring approximately 50,000 new jobs to Maryland by 2011.
"As our economy grows and we have increased job growth, we have to plan for major infrastructure improvements. Part of that is providing Amtrak with the appropriate resources so it can meet our growing transportation needs," said Senator Cardin.
"Amtrak is part of the infrastructure backbone of Maryland. It carries millions of passengers, employs thousands of workers, and benefits all of us both economically and environmentally," said Senator Cardin.
Provisions in the bill include:
· Creation of a new, bipartisan nine-member Board of Directors;
· Development of a new financial accounting system and a five year financial plan;
· Establishment of protocols for improving passenger service;
· Increased capital spending to "return the NEC to a state of good repair by 2012"; and,
· Greater management accountability.
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