March 14, 2008

WASHINGTON (March 14)—The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Bush’s appointment of former Macomb, Ill., Mayor Thomas C. Carper to the Amtrak Board of Directors.

Carper’s appointment was announced by Illinois’ senior U.S. senator, Richard J. Durbin, who said, “I am thrilled with the opportunities that Tom Carper and his years of experience will bring to Amtrak.”

Carper, a Vietnam War veteran, a graduate of Western Illinois University, a longtime Macomb businessman and mayor of Macomb from 1991 to 2003, has been serving since 2003 as West Central regional director for the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity’s “Opportunity Returns” program.

UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo called Carper “an unusually qualified and experienced public official with a special understanding of the importance of passenger rail on community economic development.

“I’ve known Tom since my days as Mayor of Riverdale when he and I met at U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting,” Szabo said. “We formed a fast and lasting friendship.”

“Tom has been closely identified with the campaign for passenger-rail service in Illinois for more than 20 years now,” Szabo said. “As mayor of Macomb he saw how important the daily Amtrak Illinois Zephyr service was to the city’s biggest employer, Western Illinois University. Half of WIU’s 12,000 students are from the Chicago area, and the train is essential to keeping them in touch with their families.”

Szabo said Carper also was of critical importance in helping organize his fellow mayors in the Illinois Municipal league when they sent Rod Gov. Blagojevich their now famous 2004 petition with 230 signatures calling for expanded passenger-rail service across the state.

“We worked side-by-side at the Illinois Municipal League convention in gathering those signatures,” Szabo said. “That petition was the first salvo in the campaign that resulted in the General Assembly’s 2006 decision to double its sponsorship of Amtrak service in the state, including a second frequency on the Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy route that serves Macomb.”

The new trains premiered October 30, 2006. Since then, ridership on the Illinois Zephyr route is up 41 per cent.

“Tom knew those trains would work,” Szabo said. “He served on the National Amtrak Mayors Council from 1991 to 2003 and understood that in Illinois and across the country the people were ready to ride trains.”

Szabo said that with Carper on the board Amtrak gains a director with an unusual level of grass-roots experience in passenger-train demand, development and sponsorship.

“Tom comes to Amtrak with a level of experience and grounding in passenger rail that far exceeds that of the typical Amtrak board appointee, and his understanding of Amtrak’s political environment is second to none,” Szabo said.

“Tom’s appointment is a major step forward for the passenger-rail movement in Illinois and nationwide. As a longtime personal friend I take special pleasure in his appointment and promise all the help that I and our union can provide him in making his tenure on the Amtrak board a success.”