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 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.

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