April 20, 2005

WASHINGTON (April 20)—This could be the year that Congress finally recognizes that rail transportation is essential to a strong U.S. economy.

And your phone call could be the deciding factor in whether Congress acts.

That’s why UTU leadership is asking all members—along with members of the other railroad crafts—to contact their U.S. representatives and urge them to support and co-sponsor H.R. 1630 and H.R. 1631.

H.R. 1630 would authorize a steady, continuing and guaranteed $2 billion per year to fund Amtrak from Fiscal Year 2006 through 2008. Currently, Amtrak has to seek a separate congressional appropriation each year and has never received more than about $1.2 billion, a figure far too low to support the railroad’s operating expenses and capital-investment needs.

H.R. 1630 would keep all current trains running, while allowing Amtrak to catch up with deferred maintenance on its Northeast Corridor and to continue rebuilding cars and locomotives now sidelined because there is not enough money to repair them.

H.R. 1631, the Rail Investment, Development and Expansion Act for the 21st Century (RIDE 21) would authorize $73 billion in tax credits and tax-free bonding authority to help railroads and states add track, signaling, bridges, grade-crossing protection and other engineering to permit expansion of freight, intercity passenger rail and high-speed-rail.

“Call your congressman now and tell them you want them to support and H.R. 1630 and H.R. 1631 and become co-sponsors of this legislation,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. You can find their names and the phone numbers of their district offices easily. Just go to
http://www.elections.state.il.us/dis/pages/SelectOfficialSearch.asp and key in your street address.

“These two pieces of legislation are key to getting passenger rail on a firm financial footing,” Szabo said. “Instead of an annual battle to ‘save’ Amtrak, we can switch to a pro-active program that grows our rail system’s capacity by measured amounts each year and enables both Amtrak and the freight railroads to omcrease their train frequencies. That means more good rail jobs. Make that call now.”