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Good news (for now)for Amtrak in Senate votes

 Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas, seems to really “get it.”

Senate defeats measure to curtail Amtrak

Web Posted: 10/25/2007 05:43 PM CDT

Gary Martin
Express-News Washington Bureau (San Antonio)

WASHINGTON — A measure to eliminate costly Amtrak
routes in the South and West — including two that
serve San Antonio — was rejected overwhelmingly Thursday by the Senate.

The amendment to cut federal subsidies and
eliminate the long-haul routes was defeated on a
28-66 vote after lawmakers said the lack of rail
service would unfairly deprive riders of service outside the eastern corridor.

“Texas rail passengers depend on these routes
daily,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Targeted in the measure to eliminate 15 long
distance trains were the Sunset Limited, which
runs from Orlando to Los Angeles, and the Texas
Eagle, which runs north to Chicago. Both lines run through San Antonio.

More than 42,000 passengers boarded or
disembarked trains in San Antonio last year, according to Amtrak.

San Antonio was the second busiest train depot in
Texas, behind Fort Worth, where 81,000 passengers got on and off trains.

Overall, more than 268,000 passengers boarded and
alighted trains in Texas last year. Amtrak also
employs 250 workers in Texas, and spent $12.7
million on goods and services in the state.

Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., sought the elimination
of the long distance trains to make Amtrak more
fiscally sound and reduce federal subsidies for riders.

He noted that 43 percent of operating funds were
being spent on 15 percent of Amtrak riders,
particularly on routes in rural areas of the country.

Train service for cities along the East Coast are
more profitable and cost less per passenger to operate.

President Bush has tried to slash Amtrak funding
in recent years, and Congress has criticized the
railway for financial inefficiencies and mismanagement.

Hutchison has blocked attempts to sell off
non-profitable Amtrak trains and routes and
consolidate passenger service in the East.

“Amtrak must be ‘national or nothing,’ and
eliminating the Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited
would be a step backward in this pursuit,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison is a member of the Senate
Appropriations subcommittee on transportation,
which has oversight of federal funding for Amtrak.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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