Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Railroad Passengers Deplore Transportation Funding Direction

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.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics

One Response

  1. Washington Freight Mobility Council says:

    U.S. Senator Patty Murray requests funding for the Northern Columbia Basin Railroad Project

    Moses Lake, Wash. – U.S. Senator Patty has requested $5 million in funding in her Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriation request for the Northern Columbia Basin Railroad Project in Moses Lake, Washington (http://murray.senate.gov/approps/requests.cfm#thud).

    On her website, Senator Murray states, “An important part of my job as your U.S. Senator is to help Washington state communities and businesses get federal support for projects that will create jobs, get our economy moving and make a difference for Washington’s families. My staff and I have taken a look at all of the project requests that have come in this year. We put a priority on those projects that have broad-based local support and will create jobs and generate economic growth.”

    The $5 million in funding requested for the Port of Moses Lake will provide for the construction of Segments 2 and 3 (of the Northern Columbia Basin Railroad Project), which is a trunk-line extension serving the Grant County International Airport’s east industrial area and the rehabilitation of existing track and upgraded crossings.

    “Extending a line to the airport’s east industrial area will provide for further economic growth and facilitate the operations of over five existing companies that employ over 1,000 workers, and the additional developments of crossings along the line will significantly enhance the safety and flow of commuters and pedestrians in the region”, said Murray.

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