It’s funny, after months of languishing in legislative hell, the Amtrak reauthorization bill has blasted its way through Capitol Hill in a matter of weeks. It’s not the nicest thought, but it probably has a lot to do with the LA Metrolink crash and the new safety measures tied into the bill.
Perhaps the extra bit of irony here is that President Bush, an avowed enemy of a reasonable budget for Amtrak, is now planning on signing the bill, according to the New York Times. It must be a sign of the times (no pun intended). With high gas prices and declining automobile usage, the Bush administration is perhaps realizing the virtues of passenger rail in its twilight hours. Or maybe they just don’t want to make the public any more disillusioned with them than they already are. The past eight years were basically treated as a swear word in last night’s Vice Presidential debate (on that note, no mention of Amtrak last night.. oh well).
Unfortunately, Amtrak’s not out of the woods yet (is it ever?). The company and the NARP are going to have to go hunting for where these funds are coming from in Congress. But still, this is significant progress for Amtrak. Let’s hope we don’t lose the momentum with important votes about transit and rail coming up this November (CAHSR by itself is enough to get excited about).