Carper expected to meet with Senate panel today

John Pulliam

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is scheduled to introduce former Macomb Mayor Tom Carper at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing today on Carper’s nomination to serve on the Amtrak Board of Directors.

Durbin, who earlier recommended Carper to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and to President Bush, announced Nov. 15 that the president had nominated Carper to serve on the board, made up of seven voting members.

Durbin met with Carper Monday.

Carper was named in 2004 by Gov. Rod Blagojevich as director for the West Central Region for Opportunity Returns. Galesburg is part of the area of the regional economic development program that is within Carper’s region. He said Nov. 16 that he will continue to serve in his present capacity with Opportunity Returns, because the position on the Amtrak board is not a full-time position.

“Given Tom’s accomplishments as mayor and regional director for West Central Illinois’ economic development plan, I am confident he will work to keep Amtrak on the right track,” Durbin said in a news release.

Amtrak’s Board of Directors sets corporate policy an oversees management of the company. With eight Amtrak trains stopping in Galesburg daily, the workings of the passenger train company is of great interest in this area. Amtrak ridership increased nearly 14 percent in Galesburg from fiscal year 2006 to FY 2007, to just more than 87,000 riders.

Galesburg Mayor Gary Smith in November said of Carper, “He’s the right person for the job.”

Board members are appointed to five-year terms with the advice and consent of the Senate. Among the seven board members is an ex officio federal government representative, a position held by the secretary of transportation.

Amtrak employs more than 2,000 Illinois residents and annually spends $56 million for goods and services in the state. Illinois is the central hub of the North American continent, bringing 2.5 million passengers through Chicago each year.

On Oct. 30, the Senate approved the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007, which authorizes Amtrak for six years.