Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Amtrak? Equipment shortage?

This is probably my favorite theme. Due to over 30 years of starvation level funding by a special interest driven congress, Amtrak is flat on its back without even enough cars to operate a a skeletal national system. The Chicago Tribune carries a report on Senator Dick Durbin’s proposal to remedy this ridiculous and embarrassing situation.

Key elements of his plan consist of a trust fund to replace aging trains, along with grants and tax-credit bonds to encourage train-car manufacturing in America for the first time in many years.

“This is not the past. This is the future,” Durbin said of intercity train travel as he stood in front of refurbished Amtrak trains built at the railroad’s maintenance facility south of downtown Chicago.

“We cannot pave our way out of traffic congestion,” he added.

The proposed Intercity Passenger Rail Rolling Stock Trust Fund would be funded by diverting 1 quarter-cent per gallon from the federal gas tax to buy new rail cars.

But the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by gas tax revenue to pay for roads and mass transit, is expected to go bankrupt this fiscal year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Durbin’s plan also seeks authorization for Amtrak to sell up to $2.8 billion in bonds each year to finance train-car projects.

Until this happens, there will be no daily Sunset, no Sunset east of New Orleans, no service to Las Vegas, no improvements in service, period. Of course, this is exactly as airline and highways interests would have it.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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August 2008