Two weeks ago, Secretary LaHood said that DOT and the states were “knee-deep in the business of American high-speed rail.” This week, I've had a chance to see the truth of this firsthand. On Monday, I was at the Michigan Rail Summit in a state where leaders see that a reliable rail network is critical to economic competitiveness. Michigan's rail investments will connect work that needs to be done with workers ready to do it. And yesterday, I saw a great example of that at the Delaware Car Company in Wilmington.
The Delaware Car Company has been hard at work rebuilding seven passenger cars for North Carolina's Piedmont service.
Jointly operated by Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the Piedmont connects Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, and six other cities in a three-hour trip. Its popularity has grown steadily; to meet demand--up 46 percent from 2009 to 2010--a second run was added in 2010. From 2010 to 2011, ridership was up more than 40 percent, and revenue increased more than 60 percent.
DOT investments, through the Federal Railroad Administration, provided the funds to rehab NCDOT's passenger cars. But this isn’t just good news for North Carolina commuters; the benefits of this investment have been felt across state lines and throughout the supply chain.
It has clearly been good news for the folks at the Delaware Car Company, their families, and the city of Wilmington. Tom Crowley, the vice president and general manager, told me that, because of the NCDOT order, they’ve able to retain employees and are actually increasing their workforce by 25 percent.
I heard the same thing in May when I visited the Alstom plant near Rochester, NY.
That’s why it’s so crucial for Congress to pass the transportation investments proposed in the American Jobs Act. These include $2 billion to create quality jobs continuing our upgrades of Amtrak equipment, cars, and stations. Like the FRA grant that supported the NCDOT work at the Delaware Car Company, these investments will put Americans to work improving our increasingly popular national passenger railroad.
From Maine to Michigan and Carolina to California, we’ve got engines, cars, and track that need to be produced, and all of that high-end manufacturing can be done right here. There are private companies, like Delaware Car Company, that have the equipment and manpower to do the heavy lifting right now. They're ready.
I hope you’ll get on board with Secretary LaHood and me. Let’s connect the men and women who need their jobs back with the work that needs to be done. Let’s pass the American Jobs Act.