U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined ten of his colleagues on Thursday in asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to reject reckless and devastating cuts to the High Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service and Amtrak grant programs made in H.R. 1.
"Reducing funding of Amtrak's capital and operating expenses to the House-passed levels would require Amtrak to furlough employees and negatively impact Amtrak's ability to maintain its current service levels, operate safely, and comply with the requirements set forth in PRIIA (the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008)," the Senators wrote in a letter Thursday.
In Delaware, the adoption of the irresponsible cuts in H.R. 1 would result in 215 employees losing their jobs at Amtrak's Bear and Wilmington repair shops.
The letter was addressed to Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) -- chair and vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee -- and Senators Patty Murray (D-Was.) and Susan Collins (R-ME) -- chair and ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. In addition to Senator Coons and Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), the letter was signed by Senators John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). It is attached here as a PDF.
At a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee Thursday to review the FY2012 budget request for the Department of Transportation, Senator Coons underscored the importance of investments in infrastructure and mobility to growing our economy and making the U.S. more competitive in the global market. He praised Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood for his "passionate defense" of infrastructure investments and praised the impact of the Build America Bonds program in New Castle County, Delaware, when Senator Coons was its County Executive.
Senator Coons also took the opportunity during Thursday's Budget Committee hearing to reiterate his request of Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood that if the State of Florida rejects the $2.4 billion in federal funds allocated to it under the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, that it should be redirected to high-speed rail projects in the Northeast Corridor.
On Monday, Senators Coons and Carper joined Senators Blumenthal, Gillibrand, Kerry, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Menendez, Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Barbara A. Milkulski (D-Md.) in urging Secretary LaHood to redirect Florida's allocation to the Northeast Corridor.
"High-speed rail is an important part of the economy not only here in Delaware but up and down the Northeast Corridor," Senator Coons said in a statement accompanying that letter earlier in the week. "In addition to reducing congestion on our roads, high-speed rail makes the cities and states it serves more appealing to businesses looking to open new facilities and put more people to work. If Florida isn't interested in this funding, I'm certain that it can be put to good use up here in Delaware."
The deadline for Florida to accept or reject the federal funding is Friday.