Former fellow senator,John D. Rockefeller IV,D-W.Va.,gave Vice President Joe Biden the nickname because Biden has taken more than 7,000 round trips on the railroad system.
In Biden's more than 25 years as a senator,he commuted home to Wilmington,Del.,nearly every day.
Amtrak has been granted $1.3 billion from the stimulus bill President Obama signed Feb. 17.
Joined by members of Congress who supported the funding boost,Biden said that delaying the added funding has been a mistake. Roads and highways are given federal subsidies,while rail is ignored by comparison. Railroads are “on the edge of fraying,” he added.
The Department of Transportation reported that for at least the last three years – including 2009 – presidential budget requests have asked for 40 times more money for highways than rail.
Recognizing the influence Biden has had on Amtrak's image,Rep. Nick Rahall,D-W.Va.,said,”What a great difference a VP makes.”
The comment drew a long,euphonic groan from some in the invitation-only audience and prompted one person to shout,”Amen!”
Rep. Corrine Brown,D-Fla.,announced that it was 82 degrees in her district Friday,as Washington's skies threatened rain.
“Even though it's a cold day here,it's a hot day for Amtrak,” she said. “This is what the stimulus is about.”
Biden and others said that the rehabilitation projects – including $105 million to replace a 102-year-old bridge over the Niantic River in Connecticut – would provide jobs.
Biden's hometown Victorian-era station will get $21 million,plus more from the state,for a rehabilitation.
Other projects include $82 million to restore passenger rail cars,$63 million to upgrade the electrical system that powers trains in the Northeast Corridor,$10.5 million for a new auto-train station in Sanford,Fla.,$60 million for advanced signaling for trains in the Midwest and $105 million to repair dozens of facilities around the country.
Sen. John Kerry,D-Mass.,said the United States is behind other countries – such as Germany and France – in terms of mass transit.
“This is their plan for putting a country to work,for putting it in the 21st century,” Kerry said.
In addition to providing jobs,better rail service should have environmental impacts.
Americans waste 3 billion gallons of gas per year stalled in highway congestion,he said.
In 2008,Amtrak carried more than 28 million passengers. Every weekday,an average of 850,000 commuters depended on rail services that use Amtrak-owned infrastructure or other agencies operated by Amtrak.
All passenger railroads in the world require some form of public support,according to an Amtrak fact sheet.