(Senate - September 29, 2008)

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[Pages S10039-S10041]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I am very pleased that the Senate stands 
poised to approve H.R. 2095, a bill that provides for a new generation 
of rail safety improvements, the reauthorization of Amtrak, and the 
critical Federal funding for the Washington Metro system.
  All three elements of this legislation are essential to bringing 
America's rail into the 21st century. There are many reasons we need to 
do that. We need to do that because it is important for quality of 
life, we need to do that because it is good for our environment, we 
need to do that for energy security, we need to do it because it should 
be an important priority for our Nation.
  Now we are ready to move forward. I wished to focus my comments on 
title VI, which is the National Capital Transportation Amendments, a 
section that incorporates legislation I sponsored to reinvest in the 
Washington Metro system.
  At the outset, I wish to thank my cosponsors, Senators Mikulski, 
Warner, and Webb. This has been a bipartisan regional effort, where we 
have worked together in an effort to come up with the right proposal.
  I noticed a little earlier today that Congressman Tom Davis of 
Virginia was on our floor. I wish to acknowledge his hard work on this 
legislation. He was critically important in getting this legislation 
through and the strategies in order to be able to accomplish an 
opportunity to finally vote on this legislation.
  Along with my colleagues from Maryland and Virginia, Congressman 
Hoyer was very instrumental, and others. Our collective thanks also go 
to the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and 
Government Affairs Committee, Mr. Lieberman and Ms. Collins. They were 
very helpful in moving forward on this bill. I would like to thank also 
the Commerce Committee, Senator Inouye and Senator Stevens and Senator 
Smith for accommodating the strategies so we could actually vote and 
pass the bill during this session.
  A final word of thanks goes to Senator Lautenberg. He has been the 
champion on Amtrak. He has been the real champion to keep us focused on 
modernizing Amtrak and how important passenger rail is to our Nation. I 
wish to thank him for his persistence and for being able to marshal 
this bill through the Congress of the United States.
  The record on the interest of the Federal Government in the 
Washington metropolitan area and transit goes back to 1952, when 
Congress directed the National Capital Regional Planning Council to 
prepare a plan for the movement of goods and people. That plan became 
the basis for the National Capital Transportation Act of 1960, which 
clearly states the Federal interests. From that legislation I quote:

       That Congress finds that an improved transportation system 
     of the Nation's capital region is essential to the continued 
     and effective performance of the functions of the Government 
     of the United States.

  In 1966, Congress created the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit 
Authority, WMATA, to plan, construct, finance, and operate a rapid rail 
system for the region. By any measure, Metro has succeeded beyond 
anyone's expectations. Metro is the second-busiest rapid rail transit 
system in the Nation, carrying the equivalent of the combined subway 
ridership of BART in San Francisco, MARTA in Atlanta, and SEPTA in 
Philadelphia. Metrobus is the fifth most heavily used bus system in the 
Nation. In all, the Metro system moves 1.2 million passengers a day. In 
the fiscal year which ended 3 months ago, 215 million trips were taken 
on Metrorail. That is 7 million more than in 2007.
  In fact, 22 of the 25 Metrorail top ridership days have occurred 
since April of this year. And 133 million trips were taken on Metrobus 
in fiscal year 2008, which is the highest year total ever, an increase 
of 1.4 million relative to 2007.
  But let me get to the Federal Government for one moment, our 
responsibility. Federal facilities are located within footsteps of 35 
of the Metrorail's 86 stations; that is by design. Nearly

[[Page S10040]]

half the Metrorail rush hour riders are Federal employees, nearly 50 
percent during peak time are Federal employees.
  Approximately 10 percent of Metro's riders use the Metrorail stations 
at the Pentagon, Capitol South or Union Station. In other words, 10 
percent of the ridership is directly related to the Capitol and the 
Pentagon, obviously our responsibility, serving the military, serving 
the Congress.
  GSA's location policy is to site Federal facilities in close 
proximity to Metro stations. It is in their RFP. They put it there. 
They want it to be within walking distances of the Metro. Metrobus is 
available at virtually every Federal facility. Every weekday, 34,000 
bus passengers either arrive or depart from the Pentagon.
  Metro is now a mature system and showing signs of age. That is no 
surprise; 60 percent of Metro's system is now more than 20 years old. 
The average age of our bus facilities is 60 years. It is time we invest 
in modernization of these facilities. Today we act to protect the 
substantial investment the Federal Government and the region have made 
in an asset designed to serve the Federal workforce and the national 
capital region.
  Metro is the only major public transportation in the country without 
a substantial dedicated source of funding. The need to address the 
shortcoming is urgent. That is what this legislation is about. The 
legislation we, hopefully, will pass will put WMATA on firm footing. 
The legislation authorizes $1.5 billion in Federal funds over 10 years. 
For every Federal dollar, Metro's funding partners in Maryland, 
Virginia, the District of Columbia will put up an equal match from 
dedicated funding sources. We finally get the dedicated funding sources 
Metro needs.
  The bill contains important financial safeguards. It establishes an 
Office of Inspector General for WMATA and expands the board of 
directors to include Federal Government appointees.
  Also included in the bill is a provision that will improve cell phone 
coverage within the Metro subway system. I am sure that is going to 
make some of my colleagues happy that their cell phones will work on 
the Metro. Within 1 year, the 20 busiest rail station platforms will be 
required to have cell phone access. That requirement will go systemwide 
within 4 years.
  WMATA can charge licensed wireless providers for access. This is a 
classic win-win situation, providing customers with enhanced service, 
giving riders an extra level of security in the event of a national or 
regional emergency, and giving the Transit Authority a much-needed 
revenue flow.

  We have a great opportunity today to advance passenger rail service 
and safety in America, and transit in the Nation's Capital. Today, the 
Senate is taking a major step in putting Metro back on track. That is 
good for Washington, that is good for America and I thank my colleagues 
and I urge them to support the final passage of this legislation.
  Mr. WARNER. Would the Senator yield?
  Mr. CARDIN. I would be happy to yield to Senator Warner, who has been 
the real champion on this issue. I mentioned earlier in my remarks the 
tremendous leadership that Senator Warner provided in not only 
supporting this legislation and what he has done as far as regional 
issues in Washington but figuring a strategy so we could reach this 
moment. I congratulate him.
  Mr. WARNER. I was simply going to rise to say that the portion of the 
legislation we voted upon relating to the Metro is derivative of your 
regulation which you, and I was privileged to be a cosponsor, Senator 
Webb was a cosponsor, Senator Mikulski, the four of us put in. So 
although it may not be the exact bill number, it is, in fact, building 
on the foundation you laid.
  I thank you very much for that, as do all our colleagues, every one 
of whom have people who utilize this system, the whole Federal 
  But the important thing is, the District of Columbia can look to the 
Senators from Maryland, Virginia, and indeed the Members of the 
Congress and the House of Representatives, from time to time, to serve 
its interests. This is one which is very important, if not vital, to 
our Nation's Capital. I compliment the Senator for his leadership. As I 
leave the Senate, whatever modest mantle I have in this area, I convey 
to you and to Senator Webb and Senator Mikulski.
  Mr. CARDIN. Senator, you have been an inspiration to all of us on 
these issues and a model for how we should work together on regional 
issues. I congratulate you for a great record in the Senate.
  Mr. WARNER. Thank you. I have been a lucky man.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware is recognized.

                         Tribute to John Warner

  Mr. CARPER. I say to my leader, from my days as a naval flight 
officer, how privileged I have been having served in Southeast Asia, to 
serve under his leadership when he was Secretary of the Navy and I was 
a young naval flight officer, pleased to serve under his leadership 
then, and delighted to be able to follow his leadership here again 
today on the important legislation we have been voting and debating 
  I wish to comment on what Senator Cardin said. You provided an 
example for us. You provided an example for us how we are supposed to 
treat other people. You treat other people the way you wish to be 
treated. You are an embodiment of the Golden Rule.
  If you look in the Bible, it talks about the two great commandments. 
The second one is to love they neighbor as thyself; treat other people 
the way you want to be treated. You certainly embody that. I, 
personally, am going to miss you. I know a lot of others are as well.
  You talk about passing the mantle to Senator Cardin. Your mantle is 
so heavy, it is amazing to me you can even walk around, all you have 
done and all you have accomplished.
  But you are the best. It has been an honor to serve with you, again, 
here in this capacity.
  Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I thank my good friend and colleague from 
Delaware. You mentioned naval aviation. It requires an extraordinary 
person to go into that program to fly those aircraft. I believe yours 
was a P-2; was it not?
  Mr. CARPER. It was a P-3.
  Mr. WARNER. I remember that airplane. It flew many missions. Your 
primary mission was watching the Soviets, I repeat the Soviet Navy, and 
its submarines operating off the shore and was vital to our security, 
to track and know where those submarines were because they had missile 
armaments which could inflict great harm on this country.
  So I commend you, sir, for your service and I humbly thank you for 
your remarks.
  Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, I would like to talk a little bit about 
the legislation Senator Warner, Senator Cardin, Senator Lautenberg, and 
others have crafted. It has been described as legislation that will 
accomplish three things: One, to eventually provide better transit 
service for folks in this part of the country, to help--whether you 
happen to work here, live here or visit here, the opportunity in years 
ahead, to get out of our cars, trucks and vans, leave them wherever 
they are, at home, in the parking lot or at work and take transit.
  It will help the quality of our air. It will help reduce congestion 
in this part of our country. It will reduce our reliance on foreign 
oil. It works on all different kinds of levels.
  I know Senator Warner has done good work, along with Senators Cardin 
and Mikulski and Senator Webb. I also wished to say to Senator 
Lautenberg how much I appreciate his leadership in crafting the 
legislation, the Amtrak legislation, the rail safety legislation that 
is before us today.
  On the rail safety legislation, this is the first time in 10 years 
that we have actually come back and taken up a major reform of rail 
safety. The legislation provides some money--about $1.5 billion--for 
rail safety programs over the next 5 years.
  The best thing it does is with respect to something called positive 
train control systems. A terrible accident, a commuter train and 
freight train accident out in California earlier this month, could have 
been prevented had those trains been fitted with--especially, the 
commuter rail train--a positive train control system. This legislation 
requires the installation of that kind of system in all trains by the 
year 2015. I would argue that it should be

[[Page S10041]]

sooner. My hope is it will be in a number of trains before that date, 
but it should be on all trains by that date. In the situation in 
California, apparently the engineer may have been text messaging and 
missed a stop signal, ran the stop signal and ran right into a freight 
train, killed a lot of people, including him. Had we had this positive 
train control system in place, all that damage and heartache would have 
been spared.
  Another major provision of this legislation on the rail safety side 
deals with hours of service. I used to think we flew a lot of hours. I 
spent a lot of time when I was on Active Duty in the Navy. People who 
work on trains spend a lot of time operating the trains as well. 
Currently, they are able to work up to 400 hours per month. Under 
current law, they are allowed to work up to 400 hundred hours per month 
compared to about 100 hours for commercial airline pilots. This 
legislation drops that limit by about a third, down to around 275 hours 
per month. That is still a lot of hours to work in a month but better 
than what they had been working with for years.
  The last piece I want to mention on rail safety deals with the 
highway-rail grade crossing. This is a case where you don't have a rail 
overpass or a road going under a railroad bridge but a situation where 
you have the rail and the highway meeting at the same level. This 
legislation requires the 10 States with the most highway-rail grade 
crossing collisions to develop plans to address the problem within a 
year of enactment. It also requires each railroad to submit information 
to an inventory of highway-rail crossings, including information about 
warning devices and signage.
  In short, this legislation is going to save lives. It is going to 
save money. It is going to provide a much better situation for people 
who are running and operating trains, people who are traveling on 
trains, and for those of us who are driving around in our cars, trucks, 
and vans, trying to get across a rail crossing.
  Next I would like to turn to Amtrak, an issue that is near and dear 
to my heart. In our State, we have a lot of folks who take the train. 
Amtrak has a train station in Wilmington, DE, and that train station is 
about the 11th or 12th busiest in the country. A lot of people depend 
on Amtrak in my State, as they do up and down the Northeast corridor.
  I used to serve on the Amtrak board of directors when I was Governor 
of Delaware. I rode Amtrak as a passenger. As someone who represents a 
State where we do a lot of repairs on locomotives, we do a lot of the 
repair work on the passenger and dining cars and so forth, I wanted to 
talk in sort of broad terms about this legislation.
  Mr. President, what is the situation with the time?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senate has an order to recess at 1:30.
  Mr. CARPER. In that case, we better recess. I will have the 
opportunity later to pick up my remarks and talk about the Amtrak 
provisions in this bill.
  I thank the Chair.