Amtrak and American jobs rolling forward with new locomotives
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of riding Amtrak from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia with the president of the Amtrak Fan Club. Of course, that title is unofficial and it comes with very few responsibilities because Amtrak's number one fan, Joe Biden, is already very busy as our nation's Vice President.
As Vice President Biden knows, it’s a good time to be in the Amtrak fan club. And it's not just because Amtrak has broken ridership record for ten of the past eleven years, reaching nearly 32 million riders in 2013.
It's because yesterday in Philadelphia--thanks to DOT support--Amtrak put into service the largest fleet of new electric locomotives built in the United States since World War II.
Photo courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer, Tom Gralish
For intercity trips in the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak is now more popular than air travel. Between New York and Washington, Amtrak now carries three times as many passengers as all the airlines put together, making the Northeast Corridor the busiest rail corridor on the continent.
But Amtrak has been operating this ever-growing corridor with trains that, in many cases, have been in operation for more than two decades and have covered enough track to circle the Earth 100 times.
In most cases, the electronics technology in these locomotives is obsolete. And it's increasingly difficult to acquire spare parts for them. Some parts aren’t even made at all anymore. And because the bodies of the trains are rusting out, rainwater can seep into the engine compartment.
Long story, short: Amtrak has needed an upgrade. And to help them with it, DOT went to our Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program, a Department initiative that tackles projects that otherwise couldn’t get done. And we awarded Amtrak the largest RRIF loan in the history of the program, more than $560 million, enabling the railroad to put into service the fleet they introduced yesterday.
With that loan, Amtrak and Siemens have been able to deliver more than just new locomotives; with the Cities Sprinter, they've introduced important innovations: A train that’s lighter, safer, more powerful, more efficient, and that contains a braking system that actually feeds energy back into the grid.
But that’s not the only reason we were glad to help kick start this project.
Siemens built these locomotives with supplies made by 70 companies from 23 states and 60 U.S. cities and towns. Everything in these trains –100 percent of the steel, the piping, the electrical systems– was manufactured in America.
Over the past five years, President Obama and Vice President Biden have spearheaded an effort to invest more than $1 billion in high-speed rail projects in the Northeast and Keystone Corridors, nearly all of them built by American hands. And because of that, while these new locomotives will be running in the Northeast Corridor, families in manufacturing towns and cities all across America have food on their tables and a roof over their heads because a mother or a father worked to put these trains together.
So if people are wondering where all the good, middle-class manufacturing jobs have gone in this country, they’re right here –building our trains and other modes of transportation. Because when we invest in our infrastructure--enabling Americans and the freight that fuels our economy to whisk safely and efficiently from one place to another--we also create more manufacturing activity here at home.
This is exactly what the President meant when he talked about stamping more products with “Made in the USA” in his State of the Union last week. And it’s why the man sitting behind him--Vice President Joe Biden--stood up and applauded.