Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Amtrak

House Jobs Bill Could Make General Electric’s Amtrak Wish Come True

The House is poised to take up a jobs bill later today that provides $37.3 billion in new transportation spending, including $27.5 billion for roads, $8.4 billion for transit ... and a holiday gift for General Electric?

ecomaginationhybrid5.jpgCould this cleaner GE locomotive be coming soon to Amtrak? (Photo: Inhabitat)

GE's transportation division recently joined its main labor union in a lobbying campaign aimed at winning federal money for Amtrak to buy its lower-emissions locomotives, which are catching on in China but not in the U.S.

And tucked into the new House jobs bill is language that appears to give GE the opening it has sought. The bill states that its $800 million in Amtrak funds can be used (emphasis mine):

for fleet modernization, including rehabilitation of existing and acquisition of new passenger equipment, including fuel-efficient locomotives.

What's more, the House jobs bill also includes language requiring the Transportation Secretary to adhere to "buy American" rules for Amtrak even if the equipment in question "cannot be bought and
delivered in the United States within a reasonable time." (Existing law allows the U.S. DOT to waive Amtrak "buy American" rules in such cases.)

Of course, there's no guarantee that Amtrak management will opt to use any new job-creation money to purchase GE trains -- and the House jobs bill faces a decidedly uncertain fate in the Senate. But given the punishing layoffs that GE Transportation made this year at its plant in Erie, PA, one wonders if local workers will begin to press the company about possible re-hiring.

Late Update: It's worth noting that the stronger "buy American" rules apply across the board for construction projects in the jobs bill, as Bloomberg reported this afternoon.

Even Later Update: Pennsylvania Sens. Arlen Specter (D) and Bob Casey (D) joined Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA), who represents the Erie area, in praising the GE victory -- which they note would only be sealed after a "competitive bid process" by Amtrak.

Dahlkemper said in a statement:

Funding for Amtrak fleet modernization is critical to job creation andretention in Western Pennsylvania. With this funding, Amtrak will help create demand for fuel efficientlocomotives, which could be produced in Erie and Grove City by GETransportation. Not only can this funding support our localmanufacturers, it can also improve intercity passenger rail service andhelp create a more fuel efficient rail system nationwide.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

The Paris Plan for Olympic Traffic? Build More Bike Lanes

A push to make Paris fully bikable for the Olympics is already paying dividends long before the opening ceremonies.

July 25, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines Face Our Fears

What happens if Republicans win the trifecta in November? Judging by the GOP-controlled House budget, a lot less money for transit, Smart Cities Dive reports.

July 25, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines Are in a Good Place

How should we react to public indifference about the danger cars pose to society? Perhaps a sitcom has something to teach us.

July 24, 2024

Opinion: Is Kamala Harris ‘The Climate President We’ve Been Waiting For’?

Kamala Harris fought hard for a better transportation plan in the San Diego region despite big political risks. If elected president, will she do the same for the country?

July 24, 2024

America is Setting Micromobility Records — But That Boom Could Go Bust Without Public Funding

Shared bike and scooter trips soared 20 percent in a single year. So why are so many U.S. systems shutting down — and what will it take to keep the revolution rolling?

July 24, 2024
See all posts