Durbin Meets With Amtrak President And Board Chairman To Discuss Passenger Rail's Continued Growth

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – With Congress preparing to consider a legislation to reauthorize Amtrak, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) met yesterday with Amtrak President Joe Boardman and Chairman of the Board Anthony Coscia to discuss the continued growth of passenger rail service, and the importance of robust federal support for our national transportation network. A photo of today’s meeting will be available here.

“This year, Congress faces a deadline on the future of our national transportation and infrastructure network, including Amtrak,” Durbin said. “As passenger rail continues to grow, Congress must also do its part by providing Amtrak with the resources it needs to upgrade aging infrastructure like Chicago’s Union Station and improve passenger rail service and on-time-performance. A strong reauthorization bill that improves the safety and reliability of our freight rail system while modernizing and expanding our passenger rail system is important for creating good-paying Illinois jobs and strengthening our state’s economy.

In December, Congress approved the Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act of 2015, which included $1.4 billion in nationwide funding for Amtrak. Funding to Amtrak through Congressional appropriations supports both passenger rail operations and the capital fund, which provides for upgrades and improvements at Amtrak facilities like Chicago’s Union Station. Earlier this year, Amtrak announced an initial commitment of $12 million in funding to rehabilitate Union Station’s aging infrastructure.  As part of the redevelopment of Union Station, Durbin urged Amtrak to ensure improved air quality. Recent accounts indicate that current levels of air pollutants may pose a potential health risk for passengers. After a 2010 Chicago Tribune report that discovered high levels of diesel soot and air pollution in commuter rail cars and on train platforms at Union Station, Durbin has worked with several federal agencies, Amtrak, and Metra to improve air quality inside the station.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and co-chair of the High-Speed Rail Caucus, Durbin has been a leading advocate in Congress supporting passenger rail, and has long worked to secure robust funding for Amtrak.

Congress is also expected to take up Amtrak and Rail Safety Reauthorization later this year. This bill will have a significant impact on Illinois, which has the second largest rail network in the country with over 7,300 miles of railroad track. During the last Congress, Durbin outlined his priorities for Illinois in the Amtrak and Rail Safety Reauthorization in a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, available here.