‘Amtrak Joe’ is Tired of Defending Amtrak, Announces $1.3 Billion in Stimulus Funds for Nation’s Rail Services

Mar 13, 2009 2:03pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: Vice President Biden, perhaps the nation’s most famous Amtrak passenger, announced today that Amtrak will receive $1.3 billion in stimulus money to expand passenger rail capacity. At an event at Union Station this afternoon, Biden strongly defended the government subsidies that go to the nation’s rail system and said he was “tired of apologizing for help for Amtrak.”  “Every passenger rail service system in the world relies on subsidies. We subsidize our highways and airports more than we subsidize Amtrak. So let’s get something straight here. Amtrak has not been at the trough. Amtrak has been left out. Amtrak has been left out much too long, in my humble opinion,” said Biden, who boasts he has taken over 7,000 round trips on Amtrak between Delaware and Washington, D.C. Biden called Amtrak “an absolute national treasure and necessity.” The Obama administration says that the stimulus money will roughly double the size of Amtrak’s capital investment program over two years and will be used to upgrade railroad assets and infrastructure. Biden said that $105 millon will go to replace a 102-year-old drawbridge on a rail line in Connecticut. This is the biggest project to be funded with these stimulus dollars and Biden said the plans have been in place for 20 years but have been repeatedly cut off because of funding issues. A project to rebuild 68 passenger rail cars that have been out of service will receive $82 million. Biden said Amtrak is the perfect example of what the White House means when it says that the stimulus package can put people back to work and update infrastructure. “It’s work that will take care of critical, long-neglected needs. It will put people to work immediately, and it’s an investment of dollars that will not only create jobs now but yield benefits for our economy for years to come. It will begin to build the platform for the economy of the 21st century,” he said. Upgrades to Amtrak’s passenger cars will take place at facilities in Beech Grove, Ind., and Berar, Del., and the vice president said that the company plans to hire workers who have recently been laid off from jobs at nearby manufacturing facilities. For anyone who has boarded a packed Amtrak train anywhere along the east coast and was not able to get a seat or got stuck on a delayed train, the administration has some good news for you. The upgrades to Amtrak trains will allow for increased capacity and improved schedule reliability. — Karen Travers

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