Fry to Congress: ‘Pass the Amtrak bill; fix Baltimore�s rail tunnels’

GBC president and CEO Donald C. Fry, right, talks with former Pennsylvania Governor Mark S. Schweiker at September 10 news conference in Washington, D.C. to urge Congress to pass the pending Amtrak reauthorization bill. Schweiker is currently president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Greater Baltimore Committee president and CEO Donald C. Fry urged members of Congress to pass veto-proof bipartisan legislation now before Congress that would pledge between $11 billion and $14 billion to sustain and strengthen the Amtrak rail system.

In remarks to lawmakers at a September 10 news event held by the Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility at Union Station in Washington, D.C., Fry noted pending Amtrak legislation includes funding to improve two 19th-century tunnels in Baltimore that are “critical bottlenecks” in the nation’s rail system.

Improving the Baltimore tunnels is “vital to the free flow of passenger traffic through the Northeast corridor,” Fry said. “The tunnel issue will not go away and the future of the Northeast corridor is very much dependent on a successful and lasting fix.”

A fifth of Amtrak passenger trips pass through the Union Tunnel northeast of Baltimore’s Penn Station and the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel southwest of the station. Both tunnels, which were built when the first rail routes came through Baltimore in 1873, are now “operationally handicapped,” Fry noted.

For the first time in 10 years, both the Senate and the House have passed respective Amtrak funding reauthorization bills with overwhelming support from both parties and by veto-proof majorities. The Senate bill would pledge $11.4 billion to Amtrak system upkeep. The House version would pledge $14.4 billion.

Fry and business leaders from New York and New England spoke at the Union Station event urging lawmakers to aggressively work to pass Amtrak reauthorization legislation despite the potential threat of a presidential veto. The event was attended by key members of both the U.S. House and the Senate.

Business leaders who spoke with Fry included Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, New York; and Jeff Turcotte, director of federal affairs for the New England Council.

Lawmakers who spoke on behalf of Amtrak legislation were U.S. Senators Thomas R. Carper, Delaware; Robert P. Casey, Jr., Pennsylvania; Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey; and John Kerry, Massachusetts. U. S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey also spoke.

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