Durbin and Illinois Delegation Ask DOT to Support Revival of Illinois Train Car Industry
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today led the Illinois Congressional Delegation in asking the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, to support their effort to revive the passenger rail car manufacturing industry in Illinois. The Department of Transportation recently announced that $90.8 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been committed to rehabilitating train cars in the United States and returning them to service – the average age of an Amtrak car is now 25 years. Additionally, there is $8 billion in Recovery Act funding available for high speed rail.
“It is time to establish rolling stock manufacturers here in the United States,” wrote the Illinois members. “Although we no longer manufacture passenger rail cars in Illinois, Illinois is still home to a vibrant rail industry that has the capacity to quickly modify existing facilities to accommodate the production of passenger rail rolling stock.
“The time is ripe to harness Illinois’ position and to capitalize on the massive new investment into intercity passenger rail. With the Department’s assistance we could bring good paying jobs to the United States while advancing cleaner, cheaper and greener transportation options for Americans.”
The domestic railcar giant Pullman Company provided a strong manufacturing base for over a hundred years in Illinois, providing rail cars that are still on the tracks today. But those companies have long since closed their doors and left the business of making passenger rail cars, due in part, to years of underinvestment in the U.S. and increased investment by European countries.
Durbin has spearheaded an effort in Illinois and in Congress to repair Amtrak’s aging fleet of passenger cars, bring rehabilitated cars to Illinois and revive the train car industry in the United States. In May 2008, he led a bipartisan group of Senators in requesting that Amtrak increase the number of train cars available for use on new routes in Illinois. In July, Durbin introduced a bill – the Train CARS Act – that proposed a package of financing options to bring our existing train cars into a state of good repair and lay the groundwork for the next generation of trains built in America.
Members signing on to today’s letter include: Senator Roland Burris (D-IL), Representatives Melissa Bean (D-IL), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Debbie Halvorson (D-IL), Phil Hare (D-IL), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Aaron Schock (R-IL) and John Shimkus (R-IL).
[Text of the letter below]
We write to seek your support for an effort to revive the passenger rail manufacturing industry in Illinois. This industry has been dormant in the United States for many years. We see a tremendous opportunity in the Administration’s strong support for high speed rail to bring the industry back to the U.S. and back to Illinois.
The current fleet of passenger rail rolling stock in this country is in serious disrepair and cannot adequately meet current demand, let alone future expansion of the intercity rail system. This past holiday season, Amtrak did not have enough rail cars to handle the ridership demand. Compounding a tenuous situation, Amtrak suffered several equipment failures that left hundreds of riders stranded or able to reach their final destination by transferring to intercity bus service. These events clearly indicate that we need to re-fleet the aging rolling stock that our rail system has been barely getting by with for far too long.
Unfortunately, domestic companies making passenger rail cars have shuttered their doors and left the business of making passenger rail cars due to years of underinvestment in the United States and increased investment by European countries. But the Administration’s commitment to an $8 billion initial investment in high speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has changed that equation. It is time to establish rolling stock manufacturers here in the United States.
Illinois provides the best opportunities for these companies. The domestic railcar giant Pullman Company provided a strong manufacturing base for over a hundred years in Illinois, providing rail cars that are still on the tracks today. Although we no longer manufacture passenger rail cars in Illinois, Illinois is still home to a vibrant rail industry that has the capacity to quickly modify existing facilities to accommodate the production of passenger rail rolling stock.
We will need your leadership to start this process. We ask that the Department of Transportation initiate a dialogue with the domestic and international railcar industry to explore the viability of building manufacturing capacity here at home.
As you know, Illinois holds a preeminent status among states when it comes to rail transportation. It was the steel, iron and steam of our railroads and trains that cemented our place as the transportation hub of North America. Today, Illinois continues in that tradition by being home to the only place in the country where all Class I freight railroads meet and where we have the fastest growing passenger rail ridership in the country.
The time is ripe to harness Illinois’ position and to capitalize on the massive new investment into intercity passenger rail. With the Department’s assistance we could bring good paying jobs to the United States while advancing cleaner, cheaper and greener transportation options for Americans.
Thank you for your consideration of this request, as always we stand ready to assist you in further developing a world class intercity passenger rail system.
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