Obama Builds Rail Cred With Biden Pick

bilde.jpgBarack Obama’s standing as an advocate for investment in US commuter rail looks to have gotten a boost with his selection of Joe Biden as his running mate. Whereas John McCain is the Senate’s sworn enemy of Amtrak, his colleague from Delaware is known as a "Champion of the Rails." Notes Daily Kos diarist MissLaura (via George Washington University):

Biden commutes to work each day on Amtrak and has been a strong
supporter of the beleaguered rail service. He is an original
co-sponsor of the Amtrak Reauthorization Bill (National Defense Rail
Act), S.104, introduced on January 7, 2003. Introducing an earlier
version of the bill with Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) on March 6, 2002,
Biden stated, "For 30 years, I have witnessed Congress dangling a
carrot in front of Amtrak’s eyes, funding it just enough for it to limp
along. And I’ll tell you, this has to stop.  Now is the time to commit
politically and financially to a strong, safe, and efficient passenger
rail system." Biden has been particularly concerned with rail
passenger security, and has, in the words of communications director
Norm Kurz "worked furiously" to secure funding for Amtrak to upgrade
its tunnels, hire more cops and bomb-sniffing dogs, build more fences,
and add lighting to terminals.

Amtrak president George Warrington presented Biden with a "Champion
of the Rails" award in June 2001 and the American Passenger Rail
Coalition (APRC), a national association of railroad equipment
suppliers and rail businesses, presented him its "Rail Leadership
Award" in March 2002.

As Matthew Yglesias (and MissLaura) points out, Biden’s son serves on the Amtrak board. (R. Hunter Biden is the only Democrat among current Amtrak board members. He was appointed by fellow Yalie George W. Bush to fill a seat vacated by Michael Dukakis.)

So well known, or well publicized, is Biden’s affiliation with Amtrak that it’s already become a point of ridicule for Beltway media types. Undeterred, before heading to this week’s Democratic National Convention in Denver, Biden made an appearance at the Wilmington station, which he has passed through each day for the last 35 years, to greet workers and passengers.

Photo of Joe and Jill Biden at Wilmington Amtrak station via Delaware News Journal 



LaHood: Rail Is the Way Forward

Last week in Philadelphia, the Obama Administration unveiled its comprehensive plan to connect 80 percent of Americans by high-speed rail. And it wasn’t long before the proposal attracted critics, like Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post. Much of the blowback centers around the argument that rail is too costly at a time when budgets […]

Senate Strips High-Speed Rail Funding

The Senate’s transportation budget proposal is still under wraps, but we’re getting some clues about what’s in it. This morning, a subcommittee marked up the transportation and HUD appropriations bill, and the full committee will consider it tomorrow afternoon. Only after that will the draft bill be released. During this morning’s subcommittee markup, though, a […]

What Would Meaningful Amtrak Reform Look Like?

For the past two years, Amtrak has been under constant attack from House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL), who has used his gavel to bully the rail company. He likes to call it a “Soviet-style” monopoly and he goads it for losing money on everything from long-distance routes to food service. His vitriolic diatribes […]