Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Amtrak 2008 appropriation in danger (So, what else is new?)

Since Amtrak was founded to shift freight railroads public duties and financial obligations to employee’s retirement funds back in 1972, it has been a yearly fight to keep the national network of passenger trains running. This true despite strong ridership in the very limited areas in which convenient passenger trains operated.

So what’s new?

The Bush administration is blustering veto at all “excessive” domestic spending while simultaneously indulging itself in the excesses of “nation building” in Iraq. Naturally, Amtrak faces the budget ax.

This is especially ironic in a time when gas prices are at an all time high and nations in rich and poor countries are strengthening the commitment to good ground transportation, even high speed trains. If appropriated at the full level, the dollar amounts are an insult to an industrialized “first world” country.

While I do not intend to always be in agreement with the National Association of Railroad Passengers, their web site provides good insight and suggestions.

  • Amtrak’s fiscal 2008 appropriation: Fully fund Amtrak’s request of $1.53 billion, plus $150 million of strategic investment options. Consideration by the full House is scheduled for the week of July 23; oppose any amendment offered to cut Amtrak funding!
  • Amtrak reauthorization:The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (now S. 294) has been introduced, again this time by Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Trent Lott (R-MS). The bill provides for common-sense Amtrak reform and operational improvements, authorizes Amtrak for the five years Fiscal 2008-2012, provides for capital assistance for states, and development of state rail plans. Right now, the bill needs co-sponsors; see if your Senators are co-sponsors and if not, ask them to sign on!
  • (A detailed synopsis of PRIIA is available here on our website.)

Arkansans should be very careful of Representative John Boozman who recently proposed legislation that would have had the effect of ending all Amtrak service sharing trackage with “host” freight railroads.

Amtrak’s operating arrangements that share facilities with freight lines creates a most fragile situation for the passenger trains. Once routes are degraded to freight only standards, it is unlikely that Amtrak will be back. Remember, for Amtrak’s opponents, that is the goal and represents a significant victory.

Congestion at airports and on highways makes Amtrak a national priority, not some perenial whipping boy for self-absorbed neo-cons.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics

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