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Joe Biden says he loves ice cream, aviators and Amtrak. But if elected president, his love for the rail agency may be put to the test.
Amtrak is facing a crisis. The coronavirus has led to scores of riders abandoning its trains, causing huge drops in revenue. The agency has cut back on service to America’s heartland. It has furloughed over 2,000 workers. If it does not get $2.8 billion in emergency funding by December, another 2,400 employees could lose their jobs, Amtrak officials warn. High profile projects across the country, including those in New York and New Jersey, are facing delays.
All the while, Congress has stalled on approving any further relief, despite bipartisan support for the rail agency.
But as Mr. Biden — a longtime Amtrak rider and perhaps its most famous advocate — rolls toward Election Day, rail supporters want to hear more from the Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president about what a potential Biden administration would do to solve it.
“The Amtrak that Joe Biden loves can be largely gone by Inauguration Day,” said John Robert Smith, a former board chairman of Amtrak. “The V.P.’s got to make a statement.”
When asked about Mr. Biden’s position on Amtrak’s personnel cuts or reduction in service, the Biden campaign could not provide specific details. But Matt Hill, a spokesman for the campaign, said that Mr. Biden had been “a loyal Amtrak rider and advocate for its workers throughout his entire career.”
“A President Biden will step up for Amtrak’s workers,” Mr. Hill said.
Amtrak is core to Mr. Biden’s personal and political identity. In 1972, one month before Mr. Biden was sworn in as a senator from Delaware, his first wife and infant daughter died in a car crash. He soon began a decades-long daily ritual of riding the train between Washington and Wilmington to fulfill a pledge to be home with his children every night, earning the moniker “Amtrak Joe.”
This article first appeared on www.nytimes.com
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