Vice President Joe Biden unveiled Amtrak’s new Cities Sprinter electric locomotive yesterday at 30th Street Station in what one presenter termed “the greatest gathering of train lovers and enthusiasts since Joe Biden rode Amtrak alone.”
The 70 Siemens-built engines, which were purchased with part of a $593 million loan from the Federal Railroad Administration, replace trains which have been on the rails for 20-30 years and traveled an average of 3.5 million miles, Biden said.
The Daily Pennsylvanian examined the top five points made by Biden during his speech.
The locomotives are lighter, safer and more powerful, Biden said. The train’s braking system also generates energy and funnels that energy back into the grid.
Biden stressed that energy efficiency will save Amtrak money. He aimed his remarks about environmental friendliness to students in the crowd.
“It matters to your generation of students, it matters to global warming, it matters to the atmosphere,” he said.
Ending traffic jams
In a portion of the speech heavy on statistics, Biden stressed that a network of reliable modern trains will increase productivity.
While half of all flight delays are in New York City and Philadelphia and 50 percent of bottlenecks occur on the Northeast Corridor, Biden argued that faster and more appealing trains will alleviate this congestion.
The airport of ‘some third world country’
Biden also compared the United States transportation system to those of other countries, arguing that we are falling behind.
“If I blindfolded someone and took them at two in the morning into the airport in Hong Kong and said, ‘Where do you think you are,’ they’d say, ‘This must be America, it’s a modern airport,’” he said. “But if I blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you must think, ‘I must be in some third world country.’ I’m not joking.”
Oiling the rust belt
The purchase of 70 Siemens-built engines is the largest purchase of electronic locomotives built in the United States since World War II.
Biden described how parts were manufactured across the states then assembled in Sacramento. “If people are asking where all the good manufacturing jobs have gone in America, ask them to look at that locomotive,” he said.
An Icy Week
Biden’s speech and the unveiling of the new trains follow a difficult week for Amtrak and Pennsylvania.
On Wednesday, 623,000 customers of PECO — the dominant supplier of power in Southeastern Pennsylvania — went without power.
All of the forms of transportation mentioned in Biden’s speech are currently experiencing weather-related problems.
After a recent ice storm swept “downed trees and debris” over the tracks, Amtrak suspended service between Harrisburg and Philadelphia on the Keystone Line. Airplanes were grounded across the northeast. Icy roads made car travel difficult.
“We’re working with the Governor’s Office to alleviate suffering … I want to thank all the people who are looking out for each other as the power is off,” Biden said to applause.