Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act

Floor Speech

Date: Oct. 31, 2007
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Transportation

Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, I am in support of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007.

The passage of this critical legislation is truly a great achievement. For New Yorkers, Amtrak is not just a commodity but a life source. Passenger rail is an essential element of our transportation network that provides irreplaceable capacity and mobility to New York and the Nation. For the past near 7 years, we have had to fight the administration's constant attempts to privatize and dismantle our Nation's premier passenger rail service, Amtrak. Eliminating Amtrak service would be an economic disaster and an irresponsible policy.

Today, as gas prices continue to climb and airline delays are at an alltime high, Amtrak not only provides a necessary and affordable alternative to our congested airways, it links commuters to local locations not serviced by the airline industry. The enactment of Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007 will end the stop-gap funding process for Amtrak and will provide the traveling public with the security of a comprehensive plan for improving our nation's passenger rail system.

No country in the world has ever developed and maintained a successful passenger railroad system without assistance from their national government. Without offering an alternative, President Bush has aimed to simply shut down passenger rail in the US.

This plan will authorize $19.2 billion in Federal funds for Amtrak by providing $3.2 billion over the next 6 years and will allow Amtrak to make critical repairs and improvements to its service. Funding under this legislation will allow Amtrak to implement a comprehensive plan that will enhance rail security, reduce train delays, and improve customer service. It will also provide sufficient funding and direction to bring the Northeast corridor up to a ``state-of-good-repair,'' including vital tunnel life safety work in the Hudson River Tunnels.

In recent years, attempts by Congress to improve and modernize Amtrak's operations were stalled by the Republican-controlled House, and earlier this year the President proposed cutting $493 million, more than 38 percent of Amtrak's operating funds. This sort of backward thinking would have severely jeopardized Amtrak's ability to serve their passenger lines in New York and throughout the Northeast.

Mr. President, in the State of New York, Amtrak operates 140 routes, employs more than 1,900 people, and has 2 of the top 10 busiest stations in their rail system. Amtrak is an integral part of our transportation infrastructure and continues to service parts of the State that need the influx of tourists, business travelers, and others. The future without Amtrak for New York would be devastating.

I am proud that the full Senate has rejected the administration's approach to Amtrak. As an original cosponsor of this legislation, I commend Senator Lautenberg and Senator Lott for their leadership in steering this critically important legislation through the Senate. As an original cosponsor of this legislation, I am pleased that my Senate colleagues have voted overwhelmingly to continue to provide critical funding for Amtrak, and I look forward to this legislation being signed into law.