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U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Metra Senior Manager Shamonda Jones received awards from the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) at the organization's congressional reception held this week in Washington, D.C.Thune and Wicker were honored with NARP's Golden Spike Award in recognition of their leadership in helping to pass the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the first comprehensive surface transportation bill to include passenger trains. The senators also were recognized for their advocacy for a national passenger-rail network, NARP officials said in a press release."Sen. Thune has shown a remarkable vision and leadership in advancing this bipartisan legislation to strengthen the national passenger rail network—all the more impressive when considering the absence of passenger train service in South Dakota," said NARP President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Mathews. Wicker has been pushing for the return of Amtrak service to the Gulf Coast region. Service has been out of commission there since Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005."In Sen. Wicker, Mississippians — as well as scores of communities throughout the Gulf Coast region — have a true champion who is fighting for the opportunities and access that rail service can bring to the area," said Mathews.Meanwhile, NARP honored Jones with the Dr. Gary Burch Memorial Award for her dedication to fostering a culture of safety among Metra's 40 dispatchers, who ensure the safety of the Chicago commuter railroad's 300,000 passengers every day, NARP officials said.Metra nominated Jones for the award not only for her commitment to safety, but also for an initiative she led to audit and overhaul the railroad's train dispatcher control operators manual."Getting America's rail passengers to and from their destinations safely should be a top priority for any commuter organization, and Shamonda Jones has shown a professional dedication to this ideal that has helped Chicago do so effectively for nearly 1,300 Metra, Amtrak and freights trains each day," said Mathews.The Burch Memorial Safety Award is bestowed in memory of Dr. Gary Burch, one of eight passengers who died in 1991 in an Amtrak train derailment in Camden, S.C. Burch's family established the award to recognize individuals who dedicate themselves daily to ensuring the safety of rail passengers.
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