Obama Builds Rail Cred With Biden Pick

bilde.jpgBarack Obama's standing as an advocate for investment in US commuter rail looks to have gotten a boost with his selection of Joe Biden as his running mate. Whereas John McCain is the Senate's sworn enemy of Amtrak, his colleague from Delaware is known as a "Champion of the Rails." Notes Daily Kos diarist MissLaura (via George Washington University):

Biden commutes to work each day on Amtrak and has been a strong supporter of the beleaguered rail service. He is an original co-sponsor of the Amtrak Reauthorization Bill (National Defense Rail Act), S.104, introduced on January 7, 2003. Introducing an earlier version of the bill with Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) on March 6, 2002, Biden stated, "For 30 years, I have witnessed Congress dangling a carrot in front of Amtrak's eyes, funding it just enough for it to limp along. And I'll tell you, this has to stop.  Now is the time to commit politically and financially to a strong, safe, and efficient passenger rail system." Biden has been particularly concerned with rail passenger security, and has, in the words of communications director Norm Kurz "worked furiously" to secure funding for Amtrak to upgrade its tunnels, hire more cops and bomb-sniffing dogs, build more fences, and add lighting to terminals.

Amtrak president George Warrington presented Biden with a "Champion of the Rails" award in June 2001 and the American Passenger Rail Coalition (APRC), a national association of railroad equipment suppliers and rail businesses, presented him its "Rail Leadership Award" in March 2002.

As Matthew Yglesias (and MissLaura) points out, Biden's son serves on the Amtrak board. (R. Hunter Biden is the only Democrat among current Amtrak board members. He was appointed by fellow Yalie George W. Bush to fill a seat vacated by Michael Dukakis.)

So well known, or well publicized, is Biden's affiliation with Amtrak that it's already become a point of ridicule for Beltway media types. Undeterred, before heading to this week's Democratic National Convention in Denver, Biden made an appearance at the Wilmington station, which he has passed through each day for the last 35 years, to greet workers and passengers.

Photo of Joe and Jill Biden at Wilmington Amtrak station via Delaware News Journal