This is the latest release from the National Association of Railroad Passengers, which has apparently not received the memo that Hyatt or some Caribbean cruise line is ready to take over sleeping car service and the private sector chomping at the bit to lift Amtrak to the glide path to profitability.
TFA agrees with the following 100%.
July 31, 2009
Washington D.C., July 31, 2009—Here is the statement of National Association of Railroad Passengers President and CEO Ross B. Capon on Fiscal 2010 federal passenger train funding prospects following Senate Appropriations Committee and House floor actions:
“Enactment of a passenger train reauthorization last October and the March unveiling of President Obama’s vision for modern passenger trains appeared to set a new course that would give Americans a convenient, safe, energy efficient and green transportation choice that promotes smarter development patterns more conducive to livable communities.
“Unfortunately, Congress seems headed towards funding levels that threaten continuation of existing service, while virtually ruling out improvement and expansion of service nationwide.
“The House and Senate – following the bad example set in the Administration’s budget – slashed the grant for national system operations $27 million below Amtrak’s request.
“US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in May at the National Press Club, succinctly described the folly of inadequate operating grants for transit: ‘I think it’s a little bit silly to provide all of this money to transit districts to buy new buses if you can’t afford to have drivers and employees to use the equipment.’
“This same argument applies to intercity passenger trains. But here, Congress is not cutting just operating funds, but capital as well. Yesterday, the Senate slashed $381.4 million from Amtrak’s capital request. Last week, the House slashed even more—a whopping $453 million–leaving Amtrak with a capital grant $10 million below this year’s level. These actions imply providing only 60% to 66% of the capital Amtrak needs. Since basic mechanical and engineering ‘state of good repair’ work will require $550 million, the Senate would provide less than $188 million (and the House less than $116 million) to buy the new equipment needed to replace Amtrak’s oldest cars and to support service expansion as well as investments required to comply with a reasonable interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thus, it is important that the current direction get changed on the Senate floor or in a House-Senate conference.
“As to high-speed rail funds, the Senate committee provided $1.2 billion compared with the House’s $4 billion, and would prohibit the Federal Railroad Administration ‘from awarding grants until the agency has completed a national rail plan as required under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.’ As a result of the historic $8 billion for high-speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment act, 40 states submitted 272 applications for over $105 billion of high-speed rail projects.
“Fully funding trains provides good, safe transportation choices and creates well-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced overseas.
“But, even though interest in passenger train development has never been higher and the President has set a new direction for transportation policy, what is actually happening is a piling up of more highway subsidies and a continuation of inadequate funding for Amtrak.
“The House voted today to add $2 billion to support the “cash-for-clunkers” program that lets people trade in old cars for subsidized new ones. Before initially enacting this program as part of the war supplemental, in one indication of how little Washington has changed, House-Senate conferees deleted a provision both bodies had approved which would have let clunker-disposers get public transit vouchers instead of credit for purchase of a new car.
“Evidently citizens must shout still louder to Washington before federal funding will move clearly to rectify decades of neglect of rail and overemphasis on highways and aviation. That change will be necessary to create a cleaner, safer, more-efficient transportation network.”
Our statement to a Senate Banking subcommittee outlining highway subsidies can be found by clicking here.