Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today applauded the Senate passage of legislation that will increase federal support for Amtrak and will help improve rail safety. Support for Amtrak also aids NJ Transit, which relies on Amtrak infrastructure. Senator Menendez voted in favor of the bill, which passed by a 74-24 vote.

"Rail travel is, in many ways, the lifeblood of our state and its economy," said Senator Menendez. "Perhaps never has that been truer than now in this time of high gas prices, high air fares and maddening congestion on the roads. Rail is how many of us get to work and travel up and down the east coast for business or personal reasons. It also provides a vital transportation outlet in times of emergency, as we can all remember when aviation was shut down following the September 11th attacks.

"In New Jersey, we know the importance of Amtrak, but for too long, it has had to scrape by and continue operations on a yearly basis without adequate funds to maintain the rail system over the long haul. Amtrak itself is a vital mode of transportation for New Jerseyans, and because NJ Transit uses Amtrak's lines, it is also highly important to New Jersey commuters.

"In addition, the tragic, deadly commuter train crash in Los Angeles earlier this month is a sobering reminder that there is work to do to ensure that our rail systems are as safe as possible. With this long overdue investment in Amtrak and in the programs that will help protect those who commute and travel by rail, we help keep transportation in New Jersey flowing and the economy running. I applaud my partner in the Senate for New Jersey, Senator Lautenberg -- he is a champion for our rail system, he has been a driving force for this legislation, and he is delivering yet another important accomplishment for our state."

The portion of the bill for Amtrak contains $13 billion for provisions that include:

  • Funding for Amtrak's operations,
  • Amtrak capital improvement grants and a new state capital grant program,
  • Operational reforms to reduce operating costs by up to 40 percent,
  • Repairs and improved governance for the Northeast Corridor, and
  • Improved rail security.

The portion focused on rail safety will help deploy modern safety technology, ensure that train crews and signal employees are not overworked to a level that affects their performance and would enhance the Federal Railroad Authority's ability to enforce railroad safety standards, among other provisions.

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