Durbin meets with Amtrak CEO re: security & service
WASHINGTON, DCWith Amtrak ridership up nearly 20 percent nationwide, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) met with Amtrak President and CEO George Warrington to assess the effects of the recent terrorist attacks on Americas only national rail passenger system and to discuss emergency funding for immediate security and service upgrades.
Durbin, who supports a package of economic assistance to help the ailing airline industry, which has more than 50,000 employees in the Chicago area alone, said Congress cant afford to turn its back on a critical rail passenger system that is as important for filling new transportation gaps in the air as it is for easing traffic congestion on the ground.
We needed more rail service in the past, and well need even more in the future, said Durbin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation. Congress has rightly rallied around our airlines, but cannot ignore Amtrak. We must give Amtrak the tools to meet the demands of this new world, where security is a top priority and customer demand is on the rise.
According to news reports published recently, Amtrak is seeking $3 billion for
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immediate security and service improvements. While a large share of the funding would be used to address safety concerns in Amtraks Northeast Corridor, Durbin said at least some of the requested money would be spent on improving security and service in Illinois, including at Chicagos busy Union Station.
Durbins meeting with Warrington follows a forum Durbin held last month in Illinois with Warrington and leaders from Illinois Amtrak communities to discuss the need for a high-speed rail passenger system. Illinois is home to more than 30 cities and towns served by Amtrak, and Amtrak ridership in the state exceeded 2.9 million in 2000. Amtrak employs more than 2,000 Illinoisans.
The high-speed rail legislation supported by Durbin would give Amtrak $12 billion in bonding authority to upgrade its infrastructure. Under that bill, the St. Louis-to-Chicago rail corridor would be equipped to provide high-speed rail service to Metro East, Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac, Joliet and Chicago.
The $12 billion bonding authority legislation is different than the $3 billion Amtrak is seeking immediately.