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Amtrak Celebrates 40 Years of Serving America

05/04/2011 AT 06:20

The 40th anniversary celebration is occurring during a period of long-term growth that has seen Amtrak set annual ridership records in seven of the last eight fiscal years, including more than 28.7 million passengers in FY 2010 – and Amtrak is on track to set a new record this year. “Not many companies survive for 40 years—and those that do survive because they have talented people, a great product, and a strong history,” writes Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman in Amtrak: An American Story, a new book celebrating the railroad's first 40 years.

The federal government created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation during a time when the private railroads were getting out the of the passenger rail business. In the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, national leaders decided that maintaining a “modern, efficient, intercity rail passenger service is a necessary part of a balanced transportation system.” Amtrak's national mission was reaffirmed by Congress and the President in the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act of 2008.

In May 1971, Amtrak began to deliver on its national mission and it has drawn upon the initiative, endurance, and competence of its leaders, employees, partners and supporters to become America's Railroadsm and an enduring part of the American story. For four decades, through periods of opportunity and challenge, Amtrak has served with pride connecting the nation as its intercity passenger rail provider and only high-speed rail operator.

In the 40th anniversary book, Boardman says Amtrak must satisfy both the customer's demand for better and more comfortable service and “the nation's need for mobility alternatives that will keep America competitive and healthy.” He explained that America needs a safer, greener and healthier transportation alternative and that “our record of fuel-efficiency, safety, and comfort explains why Americans are flocking to Amtrak in record numbers.”

He added Amtrak is the better travel alternative “to a clogged highway system or an air travel model that's composed in equal parts of delay, discomfort and disrobing” because it “preserves the pleasures that once made people want to travel while addressing our very modern concerns about the environment, our time, and our pocketbooks.”

While the 40th anniversary provides an opportunity to look back at each of the great transitions in the history of the railroad — the formation of the company in 1970-1971, the transfer of the Northeast Corridor to Amtrak in 1976, and the introduction of 150 mph (241 kph) high-speed Acela Express service in 2000— Boardman stressed that Amtrak is committed to “providing our country with the transportation choices it will need in the future.” For example, Amtrak is actively planning for next-generation 220-mph high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor, and is beginning to implement a fleet renewal program to provide new, modern and more reliable equipment for passengers and to meet anticipated future service expansion.

$466 Millions for 70 new electric locomotives

As part of a comprehensive plan to modernize and expand its fleet of equipment, Amtrak is buying 70 new electric locomotives to provide improved performance and reliability for its Northeast intercity passenger rail services.

$8 Billion for High-Speed Rail Projects

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will announce that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is awarding $8 billion to states across the country to develop America's first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service.

$49.5 million in contracts awarded for Los Angeles

Amtrak announced it is awarding two contracts with a combined value of $49.5 million for major upgrades of its maintenance facilities located in Los Angeles, Calif., and in Hialeah, Fla., near Miami. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act economic stimulus program is funding both projects.

New service for Amtrak's Coast Starlight

Real china and glassware are returning to Amtrak's popular Coast Starlight long-distance train to provide an elegant dining experience for passengers and is the latest service change aimed at further improving customer satisfaction on the west coast route between Los Angeles and Seattle.

Amtrak to Perform High-Speed Rail in Michigan

Stressing the importance of its intercity passenger rail service in Michigan, Amtrak announced it will perform a high-speed rail improvement study that will focus on determining what infrastructure upgrades are needed to provide 110 mph train service on the Norfolk Southern-owned rail corridor.

Amtrak Set to Replace Niantic River Bridge

Amtrak announced today it has awarded a $104.7 million contract to Cianbro/Middlesex VII of Littleton, Mass., for the replacement of the 102-year old movable bridge over the Niantic River in East Lyme, Conn.

Amtrak Illinois ridershop up 20% since 2007

Amtrak trains operated under a contract with the Illinois Department of Transportation are providing a way to overcome the unpredictable costs of driving and drew more than 1.8 million passengers to state-supported routes in Fiscal Year 2009.

$10 millions for Pelham Bay Bridge

Amtrak is making major investments in the New York area to bring its bridges, tracks and other infrastructure up to a state of good repair, increase track speeds and improve operations, including a soon to start $10 million project to rehabilitate the Pelham Bay Bridge.

Amtrak makes more Wisconsin connections

Amtrak passengers have more destinations in Wisconsin to begin or end their trips, thanks to an agreement between the national passenger railroad and Jefferson Lines, an intercity motorcoach operator.

Northest Corridor Tracks Re-Energized

Amtrak is using $25 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to replace transformers and other electrical equipment—some of which date to before World War II— at 40 substations that deliver the power needed to propel passenger trains on the electrified tracks.

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