"The stimulus package outlay announced by Vice President Joe Biden includes $21 million to restore Amtrak's historic Wilmington station, along with $58.5 million for railroad car restorations and repairs in Amtrak's Bear maintenance facility and other spending on improvements to tracks, power supplies and other rail facilities."Additional cars will be built repaired at Amtrak's Beech Grove, Ind., shops. The largest project funded through the economic stimulus will be the $102 million replacement of a drawbridge overthe Niantic River in Connecticut on the Northeast Corridor.
Other elements of the spending include a new Auto Train station in Sanford, FL, rebuildings a critical power supply facility in Chester, PA, and signal system upgrades on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington and in Michigan.
Amtrak is a major employer in Delaware, with 450 persons on the payroll at the Bear car repair shops and 500 at the Wilmington locomotive repair facility. According to Sen. Tom Carper, D-DEL, the project will put 59 passenger cars back into service.
Amtrak Communications Director Cliff Black said the funds could create up to 6,000 new jobs.
"Today's announcement is about jobs -- both for Delaware's Amtrak shops and those businesses associated with refurbishing the Wilmington train station," said Carper, who served on Amtrak's board and commutes daily by train to Washington.Rebuilding the passenger cars will enable Amtrak enter new markets and increase frequencies on some existing routes. Previously these cars were sitting idle because the railroad lacked the funds to repair them. Thus, the economic stimulus will not only create jobs by enabling Amtrak to hire people to fix the cars, but also generate revenue by providing increased service, which, in turn, will create jobs in train operations, e.g. engineers, conductors and service attendants.
"In the short term, this money will put a lot of Delawareans to work. In the long run, these upgrades will help reduce traffic, oil consumption, greenhouse-gas emissions, and household transportation costs," Carper said.
In Pennsylvania, rolling stock shortages have been an obstacle to increased service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, according to Eric Bugaile, executive director of the state House Transportation Committee.
"Amtrak is ''kind of maxed out'' on its service schedule because of equipment limitations, he said, adding that the current one train a day each way past Altoona is ''dismal.''
''We would like four or five round trips,'' he said. ''At least one more.''
The funding is roughly double what Amtrak receives from Congress for capital projects, and Vice President Biden had strong words for Amtrak critics, mainly conservative Republicans, who have pointed company's failure to turn a profit and its inefficient operations
"It is "a necessity for a great nation to have a great [rail] passenger system," Biden said. "I'm tired of apologizing for help for Amtrak. ... It's an absolute national treasure and necessity."
In his remarks Friday, Biden argued that every modern passenger rail service in the world depends on subsidies. He also claimed that U.S. highways and airports are actually subsidized more than the railway system.
"So let's get something straight here. Amtrak has not been at the trough. Amtrak has been left out," he said."