PASSENGER RAIL INVESTMENT AND IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - October 25, 2007)
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Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I seek recognition to offer my support for the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007. This legislation authorizes Federal funds for Amtrak's capital and operating needs to maintain current operations, upgrade equipment, and return the Northeast corridor to a state of good repair.
Passenger rail is indispensable to our Nation's economy and quality of life. As our Nation's aviation and highway transportation systems become increasingly more unreliable or cost prohibitive due to flight delays, congestion, and rising fuel costs, a viable passenger rail alternative has become a vital component of the national transportation network. More travelers rely on Amtrak now than at any other point in the company's 36-year history. Not only is Amtrak an important option for travelers, but increased reliance on passenger rail has the potential to reduce our Nation's dependence on foreign oil and curb automobile emissions by attracting more would-be drivers into train cars.
This legislation would ensure the stability and solvency of our Nation's passenger rail transportation system, without which I believe we would be severely disadvantaged. In addition to authorizing a reliable stream of funding for Amtrak, the bill restructures Amtrak's debt to achieve savings, creates a new grant program for States to support rail improvement projects, and creates a new, bipartisan, nine-member Amtrak board of directors whose members must have either rail, transportation, or business background.
Additionally, I am pleased that the managers' package of amendments includes language which I sponsored requiring Amtrak to study and report to Congress on the infrastructure and equipment improvements necessary to achieve 2 hour and 30 minute Acela service from Washington, DC, to New York City and 3 hour and 15 minute Acela Service between New York City and Boston. The current trip times are 2 hours 45 minutes from New York City to Washington, DC, and 3 hours 30 minutes from New York City to Boston. I believe this study will provide a blueprint for the future of the Northeast corridor and will assist Amtrak in providing faster, more reliable service along this route.
Accordingly, as a longstanding supporter of Amtrak and a frequent passenger, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.