November 20, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C (Nov. 19)—President Bush has named Thomas C. Carper, the former mayor of Macomb, Ill., and one of the state’s most vocal and successful passenger-rail advocates, to a seat on the Amtrak Board of Directors.

Carper was appointed to a full five-year term. The appointment must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Carper, a local businessman who served as Macomb’s mayor from 1991 until 2003, was recommended for the appointment by U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

“Tom Carper’s appointment could not come as better news to the state of Illinois and to all Americans who are seeking a bigger and better passenger-rail system,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo.

Szabo explained that Carper, who since 2003 has served as the Western Illinois Region Manager of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, is intimately familiar with the importance of passenger trains in driving economic development at the community level.

“As a former mayor myself, I know Tom well and have continued close contact with him since we both retired as mayors a few years back,” Szabo said. “Of all elected officials, mayors like Tom have consistently been the biggest supporters of Amtrak and the staunchest advocates for passenger trains. I couldn’t be more thrilled with his nomination.”

Szabo said mayors of smaller communities tend to be particularly knowledgeable and effective in advocating for passenger trains.

“The smaller-town mayors know how important it is for their communities to be connected to larger cities where corporate headquarters and the major banking and government institutions are located,” Szabo said. “Companies really take that kind of mobility and access into account when they seek out a site for a satellite location. Passenger trains can be critical to local economic growth, and Tom understands this as few elected officials do.”

Szabo said Carper also is a strong advocate of passenger trains because Macomb is a big university town, and students and professors are major customers of passenger trains.

“Western Illinois University has about 12,000 students in Macomb, and about half of them come from the Chicago area,” Szabo said. “But most of the students do not have cars, and Macomb is located way off the Interstate highway system, so getting home on weekends and holidays would be a real problem without the train service.

“That’s one of the reasons why Tom Carper was such a passionate and tireless advocate for expansion of state-supported passenger-rail service in Illinois,” Szabo said. “Macomb became a major beneficiary of that expansion when service was doubled a year ago. Instead of one daily train on the Chicago-Macomb-Quincy route, they now have two, and ridership is up 58 per cent.”

Szabo noted that while Carper was a strong advocate for the increased passenger rail service, “he did not act solely out of a narrow local interest.”

“Tom understood from the beginning that fast, frequent passenger trains must serve all regions of our state and stop in all of Illinois’ principal cities,” Szabo said.

“And now that Tom’s been appointed to the Amtrak board, I’m confident he will support the development and expansion of passenger-rail service all across the United States,” Szabo said.

“Nobody has a better understanding of the importance of passenger trains to the growth and development of local and regional economies. I consider Tom’s appointment a tremendous plus for passenger trains, and all of us wish him the best in his critically important new position. UTU and passenger rail advocates have a real friend in Tom Carper.”