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Bush OKs $13B for Amtrak upgrades

Generally, this is good news. It is interesting, however, that old lies live on. The northeast corridor is not by any means covering operational expenses. Scroll down and observe the ridership and revenue growth on the long haul routes. 

Friday, October 17, 2008
BY HERB JACKSON
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT  

 

President Bush reversed his seven-year opposition to a nationally subsidized railroad Thursday and signed a bill authorizing more than $2.6 billion a year over five years to upgrade and expand Amtrak.
The law requires that Amtrak upgrade the Washington-to-Boston Northeast Corridor, which crosses New Jersey from Trenton to North Bergen, to a “state of good repair.” That means replacing or upgrading aging tracks, switches, signals and even bridges that frequently cause delays on the corridor, which NJ Transit uses to carry roughly 100,000 commuters daily.
Without comment, Bush bowed to broad bipartisan support for a bill sponsored by Sen. Frank Lautenberg that combined Amtrak funding with new railroad safety standards.
“New Jersey commuters depend on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor every day, and this law will make sure our trains run more smoothly and reliably,” said Lautenberg, D-N.J., the chairman of the Senate’s surface transportation subcommittee.
The law also includes a provision sought by Lautenberg and others requiring trash-handling facilities run by railroads to comply with state fire safety, air pollution and water pollution regulations.
T he issue became a federal case in the Meadowlands in recent years. New Jersey had tried to punish railroads that did not seek state permits before opening transfer stations in North Bergen that were accepting truckloads of garbage and construction debris for loading onto railcars.
Operators appealed and won a court ruling that said only the federal Surface Transportation Board, not state regulators, can control such operations.
New safety standards include limits on hours worked by signal workers and train crews and mandatory controls to automatically stop trains carrying passengers or hazardous materials if something happens to the engineer. The law requires Amtrak to build partnerships with states to establish rail service between major cities, but advocates were unsure if that would mean new routes in New Jersey.
The last long-term federal commitment to Amtrak was signed by President Clinton and expired in 2002, requiring the railroad to wait for Congress’ annual appropriations each year to know how much money it could spend.
“After a decade of starvation diets by the Bush administration and inaction of the Republican-controlled Congress, we stand together to rebuild Amtrak and provide the necessary resources to construct a network of high-speed rail corridors across America,” said Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the House transportation committee.
The Northeast Corridor covers its operating expenses and has gained riders, but critics have said the law does not do enough to force Amtrak to drop money-losing long-distance lines in the South and West.
E-mail: jackson@northjersey.com

 

From the United Transportation Union…

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

One Response

  1. adron says:

    Seriously how is the north east corridor NOT paying operational costs?

    If it doesn’t, who is so drastically failing to make sure it does. SNCF turned a $500 million operational profit last year, and we can’t even squeeze out operational costs in the north east corridor?

    …if that is true, it is pathetic.

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