February 7, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Philadelphia, PA—Vice President Joe Biden said the US is losing ground to other countries in the quality of its infrastructure. He spoke here to call for more investments in infrastructure, particularly rail infrastructure. Watch Video of Joe Biden
The Vice President was in Philadelphia, along with the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, to announce the launch of new Amtrak locomotives. Amtrak awarded a bid worth $466 million in 2010 to Siemens to build 70 new electric locomotives to run on the Northeast Corridor and the Keystone Corridor between New York City and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Biden touted the benefits of infrastructure investments as one way to reduce income inequality.
“Income inequity has to be addressed, and it’s addressed by a good job,” said Biden.
He focused his remarks on the need to expand the country’s rail network.
“It’s time to move and a critical part of moving is infrastructure and a critical part of the transportation infrastructure is rail,” Biden said.
He credited Amtrak for reviving passenger rail in the United States and criticized critics who criticize government subsidies to Amtrak.
“Amtrak covers almost 80 percent of the operating cost of every single purchased ticket, but roughly half of every airline ticket is subsidized by taxpayers. Over half the cost of riding on interstate highways is covered by taxpayers, not the gasoline tax.”
He noted that America’s growing population necessitates an expanding rail network.
“Our country’s population is expected to grow by 17 million between now and 2020. How many more highway lanes can you build at what cost, how many more berths are available at the airports?"
Without rail, congestion will only get worse on the highways and the airports.
“About 50 percent of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country are along the Northeast Corridor. People spend about 47 hours a year sitting in all that traffic and the result is $51 billion in lost productivity,” Biden said.
Biden sees investments in the passenger rail network as a big boost to the economy and a catalyst for job creation.
“We invested $48 billion five years ago in infrastructure with the Recovery Act. We improved over 6,000 miles of rail and Amtrak was able to repair and rebuild its own infrastructure, completing more than 150 projects in 400 locations.”
The new Amtrak Cities Sprinters locomotives were manufactured at the Siemens' plant in Sacramento, California with parts from 69 suppliers in 23 states.
“The locomotive brakes were crafted in Baltimore, the paint mixed in Wilmington, Delaware, the handrails made in Philadelphia, electricians in Middletown producing the electric components, lighting from New Haven and rubber parts from Boston—this is how we used to grow America,” Biden said.
Follow Marc on Twitter firstname.lastname@example.org