The Confirmation of Joseph Szabo

Delivered on the floor of the United States Senate

Mr. President, I would like to congratulate Mr. Joseph Szabo on his confirmation as the next Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Joe Szabo has made a significant contribution to my State of Illinois, and I believe he is going to bring great success to the Department of Transportation. Joe Szabo understands better than most the long days, unpredictable schedules, and sometimes hazardous working conditions that come with employment in the railroad industry.

He has worked for the railroad--both the Illinois Central and Metra--since he was 18 years old, including stints as yard switchman, road trainman, and commuter passenger conductor.

Five generations of his family worked on the railroad. Joe learned firsthand about the railroads from his father, a 40-year switchman for the Illinois Central Railroad. His father instilled in him a passion for rail work that has helped Joe become a trusted and respected voice in rail labor and in the industry.

Joe has a distinguished record of public service and many accomplishments to show for his work in Illinois. As elected mayor of Riverdale, IL, and State legislative director for the United Transportation Union, UTU, Joe has developed a reputation as a passionate and effective advocate for freight and passenger rail and its workers.

During his tenure as UTU State director, Joe's work was integral to the State of Illinois doubling its investment in passenger rail. This additional State investment Joe worked so hard to achieve allowed Illinois to double the frequency of Amtrak trains leaving Chicago for Quincy, Carbondale, and St. Louis, and to lay the groundwork for expanding service to Rockford and the Quad Cities--our next achievements, I hope soon.

Joe's advocacy helped Illinois passenger rail achieve the fastest growth in ridership and revenue in the entire national Amtrak system.

Joe will now bring his passion for the railroad industry and his experience with rail labor to Washington. As all of us know, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and this Congress have made the single largest investment in passenger rail in America's history.

The $8 billion we included in the stimulus for high-speed passenger rail represents a commitment to taking the next step in intercity passenger rail for the 21st century.

Implementing this vision will be monumental. It will take a good-faith working relationship between Congress, the White House, the industry, and State and local governments.

Thankfully, Joe Szabo has earned the confidence and full support of President Obama. Joe and the President worked closely together when then-State Senator Obama served in Springfield in the Illinois General Assembly.

Mr. President, I am here today to tell you what President Obama and I already know: When it comes to making high-speed rail a reality in the U.S. and ensuring that millions of Americans have access to safe, reliable passenger and freight rail, there is no one better for this job than Joe Szabo.

Mr. President, in the months and years ahead, I can assure you this country will find Joe Szabo understands the critical role our national rail system plays to the health of our economy, our environment, and our future.

I am proud to have added my voice to the chorus of so many who asked the administration to nominate Joe and give him this chance to serve our Nation. I know he is going to do an exceptional job.