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NARP: House Subcommittee Passes “Kill-Amtrak” Bill

House Subcommittee Passes “Kill-Amtrak” Bill

High-Speed Rail Funding Eliminated

Release #11-18—September 9, 2011

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation & Housing yesterday voted to slash Amtrak’s operating grant  60% — from $563 million this year and last, to $227 million.  Capital grants (including debt service) would drop from $924 million to $899 million.
NARP President Ross Capon said, “Denying Americans the freedom to choose train travel makes no sense in a world of high gasoline prices and overcrowded highways and airports.  It is equally senseless in a job-starved economy to take jobs away from the public and private sector workers who build, operate and maintain trains—and all forms of transportation.  Amtrak President Joe Boardman was correct yesterday in observing, ‘Amtrak is part of the solution, not the problem.’”
The bill forbids use of the operating grant to fund short corridors.  This overrides ongoing negotiations among states and Amtrak aimed at complying with Amtrak’s 2008 reauthorization law—and overrides that law’s October 2013 target date for “equal treatment” of all states as to what they must pay for short corridors.  This poses an obvious threat to trains that carried 13 million passengers last year — and to passengers using those trains in California, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
But the bill really would kill all of Amtrak because loss of the short corridors would cut revenues and balloon costs for Northeast Corridor and national network (overnight) trains.  Revenues from connecting passengers disenfranchised by loss of those corridors would disappear.  Overhead costs—such as for station facilities and maintenance back shops—which now are shared among routes would be dumped on the surviving trains.  For example, the Texas Eagle would become the sole user of the St. Louis and Fort Worth terminals and six Illinois stations.  And Amtrak’s Chicago terminal costs would be borne solely by eight overnight trains.
The High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program—a highly oversubscribed program that has seen 39 states apply for funds to improve (and introduce) modern passenger trains for the 135 million Americans that live in a community connected to a rail corridor—was given no funding at all.  Eliminating this program could set the movement to bring U.S. interstate transportation up to the level seen in the rest of the developed world back by decades, severely undermining America’s ability to stay globally competitive.
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Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

4 Responses

  1. About time somebody shut it down. They cannot, or will not, provide needed service, so shut them down, sooner the better.

  2. patlynch says:

    But, Jerry, what will you complain about once Amtrak is gone?

  3. David Botos says:

    Gee I wonder how much money these politicians are getting from the airline and highway lobbiests??? I’ve ridden Amtrak on a number of occasions and have always received exemplarary service. Now if the freight trains would yeild Amtrak’s ontime performance would be much better. Don’t take people out of work, if anything mlore funds should go to Amtrak NOT LESS.

  4. Steve Davis says:

    If you are like Jerry, perhaps you enjoy riding Greyhound, with your worldly goods in your lap in a paper sack with a lot of other, well, less than desirable company on board. Amtrak serves millions. All airports and air service, and the lousy effort at security, is publicly funded and maintained, and much of it is subsidized. Think about that too! The railroads, on the other hand, have paid their own way. All public transport is subsidized. All of Europe, has top notch rail service, publicly subsidized as well.
    Should we not have such alternatives?

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