CHICAGO – Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo today joined Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Senator Dick Durbin and other federal, state and local officials for the dedication of the Englewood Flyover project.
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of joining Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn and several other dignitaries at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Shop #3 at the Nippon Sharyo plant in Rochelle, IL. As the name indicates, this is the third expansion at this plant since 2012. Very soon, workers will start building 130 new, next-generation rail cars for California and the Midwest that are funded through our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program.
Not that long ago, Shop #3, as well as Shops #1 and #2, were empty fields. Now, because of the Obama Administration’s investments in passenger rail, our Buy America program, and the hard work of so many, I was able to spend the day touring a state-of-the-art U.S. railcar manufacturing plant. What’s more, we’re rejuvenating a manufacturing industry that had gone fallow. New skilled workers are arriving, equipment and material being delivered, high-tech machines whirring and in the near future…shiny new rail cars will be rolling out the door.
It’s exciting for Rochelle, important for Illinois and historic for the Nation...
It's quite a week for the transportation world. In addition to National Transportation Week and Infrastructure Week, last Saturday, at stations across the country, passenger rail fans across the country celebrated the 7th annual National Train Day, an opportunity to appreciate a mode of transportation that makes a real difference to many towns, communities, and people from coast to coast.
Passenger train ridership has increased more than 50% since 2000. In fact, Amtrak has now set annual ridership records in 10 out of the last 11 years. As Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo told the National Train Day crowd at Portland Oregon's Union Station, "Travelers today have choices –and they're choosing trains in record numbers."
Not that long ago, in regional markets like Portland-Seattle and New York-Washington, DC, inter-city travelers chose air over rail. But today those numbers are reversed. In 2012, 69 percent of travelers between Portland and Seattle chose rail. And between New York and Washington, Amtrak now carries three times as many passengers as all the airlines put together...
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of riding Amtrak from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia with the president of the Amtrak Fan Club. Of course, that title is unofficial and it comes with very few responsibilities because Amtrak's number one fan, Joe Biden, is already very busy as our nation's Vice President.
As Vice President Biden knows, it’s a good time to be in the Amtrak fan club. And it's not just because Amtrak has broken ridership record for ten of the past eleven years, reaching nearly 32 million riders in 2013.
It's because yesterday in Philadelphia--thanks to DOT support--Amtrak put into service the largest fleet of new electric locomotives built in the United States since World War II.
Photo courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer, Tom Gralish
In preparation for another record Thanksgiving holiday week, Amtrak is running every available passenger rail car in its fleet, while adding additional service in the Northeast Corridor, the Chicago hub, the Pacific Northwest, and in California.
This is hardly a surprise. As I wrote on this blog recently, Amtrak has set annual ridership records in 10 out of the last 11 years, fueled by a growing demand in more than 500 communities nationwide. That includes Missouri, where Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner – operating on a 238-mile rail line serving eight cities between St. Louis and Kansas City – has set six consecutive annual ridership records.
FRA Administrator Joe Szabo; photo courtesy Cathy Morrison, Missouri Department of Transportation.
Yesterday, in Osage City, I joined Missouri DOT, Union Pacific, and Amtrak at a ribbon cutting for a new railroad bridge that will eliminate the rail line’s last chokepoint between Jefferson City and St. Louis. And in addition to benefiting four daily passenger trains, the new railroad bridge also reduces delays for 60 daily freight trains, which is great news for Missouri’s farmers, manufacturers, and businesses...
You might have noticed that a number of my recent blog posts have reached a similar conclusion: that rail deserves a predictable and reliable federal funding stream. The most recent news supporting this comes from Amtrak, which recently announced their 10th annual ridership record in 11 years. Amtrak carried 31.6 million passengers in Fiscal Year 2013. And as you can see from this chart below, the railroad’s ridership has grown more than 50 percent since 2000.
DOT's Transportation Technology Center puts American-made Cities Sprinter through its paces
In May, the first of Amtrak's new fleet of electric locomotives, called Cities Sprinters, rolled out of the Siemens plant in Sacramento. They were manufactured in America by Americans, and they featured parts and materials from more than 70 different American suppliers in 60 different U.S. cities. They are faster, more reliable, more sustainable, and easier to maintain than the locomotives they'll replace.
And, at the DOT Transportation Technology Center (TTC) in Pueblo, Colorado, the Federal Railroad Administration is making sure that they are--first and foremost--safe.
U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary John Porcari today announced that the state of Connecticut will receive $120 million in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation to complete construction on the Hartford segment of the New Haven to Springfield, Mass. passenger rail corridor. Once the project is complete in 2016, 11 additional round-trip trains will travel between Hartford and New Haven, for a total of 17 trains traveling the line, compared to six today.
A refinancing agreement between the U.S. government and Amtrak will save taxpayers approximately $162 million, the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Treasury announced today.