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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