Joe Biden

Remarks by the Vice President at the Official Kickoff Event for the Restoration and Renovation of the Wilmington Train Station in Wilmington, Delaware

May 04, 2009

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Adrian (phonetic) and I, and all of us, have been hanging out at this station for a long, long time. And as Ron, the station manager, and Adrian can tell you, I still ride this train. I'll be riding it today. I took it home a couple days ago.

And the longest stretch I've ever gone in my adult life, since age 32, actually, that I haven't been on an Amtrak train was the previous three weeks. It's the first time ever I have been -- three weekends in a row I haven't been home. See, the dog even knows it. (Laughter.) And he was angry that I didn't come home. (Laughter.)

But it's good to be home. It's good to be back. Senator Kaufman said it better than anyone has thus far, in my view. I just wish he wrote speeches as good for me as he writes for himself. (Laughter.) Where the hell was all this when you were doing this for me? (Laughter.) I mean, that line about breakfast, lunch, dinner, rest, et cetera, all in one day on the train is a good one. But it's true. And it's true that all of you -- this is an Amtrak crowd out here.

First of all, let me say to labor, thanks, thanks for always having our back. (Applause.) Let me also say that it's always been nice to be home, but this is a special day. I think it's a little nicer than almost any time that I've been here at this station.

Look, you can imagine today's ceremony is near and dear to my heart, and also to all the people standing behind me. The people who tend to this station, the conductors who have become my personal and longtime -- and continued friends, the more than 7,000 round trips I've made on this track -- they're a part of my identity. They're a part of who I am, whether I like it or not.

When we were putting together the Recovery Package -- and it started back in Chicago, before we were sworn in -- I made it, as the President tells everyone, abundantly clear that if you're going to create jobs with a long-lasting platform for the future, it's rail, rail, rail, and rail.

And so I make no apologies because I have been somewhat criticized by some for having so heavily influenced the amount of money -- more money is being invested in American rail, and all the components of rail, than any time in modern history. We have allocated $8 billion for high-speed rail. We've allocated another $5 billion -- $1 billion for the next five years. We're making a commitment that is absolutely unprecedented since the turn of the last century, the turn of the 20th century.

And so for our family, and the families of the gentlemen behind me, this station has been home, and it's going to be a much nicer home. This isn't just about making the station look better. This is about making it more efficient. Because what we expect to happen is -- we expect ridership to continually increase, not decrease. Bob Dole, who is an old friend, and used to be the minority and majority leader -- and every time there would be a vote on Amtrak. And before Tommy came, I'd be the guy who was viewed as the guy, and Bill Roth, helping Amtrak.

And ever the vote on Amtrak there's -- you see, in the Senate there's what they call the Well of the Senate. There's two desks down at the bottom level below where the president of the Senate sits, and each, the democratic table and Republican table, they put a yellow sheet of paper out as Tom and Ted know. And they'll say succinctly what the vote is about.

And every time we'd vote on Amtrak, Bob Dole literally would instruct the Republican desk to put the following note as to what the vote is: Vote to keep Biden in Delaware. (Laughter.) That was his great sense of humor, because he pointed out if Amtrak ever stopped running, Biden would move to Washington. Then that would be hell for everyone. (Laughter.) Well, I'm now in Washington. (Laughter.) And I am proud to say that the work that the men behind me have done for so many years -- and I've been part of it with them -- I've been able to be placed in a position -- if nothing else happened as Vice President, the mere fact of being able to significantly influence, along, I might add, with Rahm Emanuel, the considerable expenditure and commitment to rail in America has been worth the trip.

And so not only have we supported Amtrak, those of you behind you (sic), we continue to. I still hope that every time I get on this train, which is still frequently, that people understand why I get on this train. It is the single best investment of any traveling dollar you can invest in. It is safer. It is more reliable. It is more certain. It is more accurate than any means to get back and forth on this corridor.

I've devoted a significant part of my career to doing what I could do, along with others, to support this notion of getting rail de-stigmatized, because it was stigmatized for such a long time, this idea we only subsidize Amtrak. We subsidize the airlines more. We subsidize the highways more. It's the least subsidized form of travel. So I'm very, very proud to be part of an administration that not only was willing to listen to my notions about rail, but fully, thoroughly, totally embrace them, from an environmental standpoint, from an economic standpoint, and from a pure transportation standpoint.

We've dedicated $30 million to this project. It is true that Tom and Mike and I worked very hard to set as monies for this station. But we would not be spending a penny on it today without the Recovery Act. We have no time to wait. We cannot wait. That's what the Recovery Act is about. It's not only that. You're building vehicles. You're building/restoring cars down in Bear. You're restoring vehicles that are needed by the rail companies just to get -- Amtrak, just to get to and from locations. We're spending a lot of time and money. Why? It's about, as Ted said, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. That's why we cannot wait.

This has the added convenience of a job being created today that is a good-paying job, mostly a union job, a job you can raise your family on, a job you can live a middle-class life on, as well as building a platform for the 21st century. That's why the tens of millions of dollars that are coming to the state of Delaware under this Recovery Act would be -- we would be in desperate shape around the country without this legislation.

The fact of the matter is it goes well beyond rail. It goes to the notion that you have over 40 governors who would be laying off scores of teachers, scores of policemen, scores of firemen, as well as not investing in education, not investing in the infrastructure, not investing in energy like we're doing in this bill. Without this legislation, we would lose another 4 to 5 million jobs in America in the midst of this recession.

So ladies and gentlemen, we're doing this for the people of Delaware. But we're doing it for the 28 million people who ride Amtrak every single week, 28 million people. We're doing it because it will take care of a critical, but long-neglected needs of the rail system. We'll be putting to work -- we'll be putting people to work immediately. And it's an investment that will yield benefits for this economy in years to come.

Think about it. If we shut down the Northeast Corridors -- Anne Canby, the former person running the transportation net in this state will tell you, and before that, Nathan Hayward -- if you shut down the corridor, it's not just you wouldn't be able to ride into I-95, you would have to create seven, seven new lanes of highway on 95, costing an average $30 million a linear mile for one lane -- for one lane. Not the seven lanes added, for one lane.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the single best investment for my grandchildren and my children I could possibly make as it relates to transportation. So by improving our rail system, we're going to put even more people off the road, lowering the dependence on foreign oil, lowering the price of gas we put in our tanks. And we're going to loosen the congestion, as Mike said, suffocating our highways; the incredible hours of lost productivity that adds up into billions of dollars a year. And we're going to significantly, significantly lessen the damage to our planet. All in all, we're going to ensure that we can travel the country throughout a system that is sound, that is secure, and is able to handle the full-speed-ahead progress that our new economy so desperately needs.

And I've heard the quip: If God had meant man to fly, he wouldn't have given him rail works. (Laughter.) Well, I kind of believe part of that's true. It's about the time we took the railroads and we made them the national treasure they used to be and should be. Railroads and stations like this throughout the country have connected communities to each other. And now they're going to move us forward into the 21st century by helping us secure, helping us secure and write a new history.

As for history, this station was built, as was pointed out, a little more than a hundred years ago. And it has been the centerpiece of the Delaware community ever since. But the fact that I've always loved about the original architect of this place, Frank Furness, wasn't just he was an architect; he was also a captain and a commander of Company F of the 6th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War. And he received the Medal of Honor for his bravery at the Battle of Trevilian, which -- actually, Trevilian Station, in Virginia, in 1884 -- excuse me, 1864. To this day, he's the only American architect every to receive the Medal of Honor.

It all seems kind of fitting to me, a story that meshes perfectly with the ethic and sacrifice and the hard work that has always defined the people of Delaware, and the people that make this station what it is; the people who make the places -- this place such a wonderful place to come home to, day in and day out.

So I thank you all. I thank all the folks at this station who have become my family. I thank all of you who've supported Amtrak for so long. Our day has finally arrived, and just in time to provide the work, protect the environment, and to relieve congestion for the American people. We're going to be redoing this not just in Wilmington, but all over America.

So let me end by saying, may God bless you all, and may God protect out troops. This is a good day for the state of Delaware. Thank you. (Applause.)

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President at the Official Kickoff Event for the Restoration and Renovation of the Wilmington Train Station in Wilmington, Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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