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Missouri Amtrak subsidy gets renewed

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, Amtrak’s state subsidy for running their two trip per-day line between St. Louis and Kansas City has been renewed.

Missouri House and Senate budget negotiators approved on Tuesday $8 million in subsidies that will allow Amtrak to continue operating two passenger trains that make two trips per day between St. Louis and Kansas City.

Brian Weiler, director of multimodal operations for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the $8 million contract to Amtrak is good for one year beginning July 1. The current $7.4 million contract expires June 30.

Unfortunately, Amtrak still lacks the $10 million it needs to perform infrastructure improvements on the line. These improvements would help alleviate timeliness issues, which are largely due to sharing the rails with freight trains.

The capital improvements would go toward extending current sidings near California, Mo., and Strasburg, Mo., to 8,500 feet in order to accommodate longer freight trains and expedite passenger train movement, according to MODOT.

In fiscal 2007, only 71 percent of trains were within 30 minutes of their scheduled times with performances in some months as low as 54 percent. Some trains were delayed by several hours.

Poor on-time performance has played its part in the drop of Missouri’s state-supported passenger rail service, dropping from a high of 208,000 riders in fiscal year 2001 to only 144,000 in fiscal year 2007.

Anti-rail legislators will complain about how late Amtrak trains are, without stopping to realize that the primary reason for that is because they have to share their lines with slow moving freight trains. If the federal government and states want to provide their citizens with good passenger rail service, they need to be willing to put in what they want to get out of it.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail

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