Amtrak to House: ‘Fund Us!’

June 8, 2013

House Subcommittee members question Amtrak at Moynihan Station

House Subcommitee on Railroads at Moynihan Station

By Marc Bussanich 

New York, NY—Amtrak’s CEO, Joseph Boardman, warned a House transportation subcommittee that New York City is at risk of losing out to foreign competition without significant passenger rail investments. Watch Video

“The financial community of this nation, New York City, is at real risk without the investments that are going to be necessary to become competitive globally, and that includes faster railroads in the Northeast,” said Boardman.

Mr. Boardman testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure during a field hearing at Moynihan Station. The committee has already held several hearings in the 113th Congress as it prepares to reauthorize the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA).

The Republican members at the hearing, T&I Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Subcommittee Chairman on Railroads Jeff Denham (R-CA), both said they support a dedicated revenue stream for Amtrak, rather than yearly appropriations, to fund significant infrastructure projects along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) to increase speed and reliability.

Mr. Boardman noted that Amtrak needs $782 million every year for the next 15 years just for the costs of NEC normalized replacement ($386 million) and a backlog of infrastructure work ($396 million).

But Congressmen Shuster and Denham told Mr. Boardman that the committee has a limited amount of funds to appropriate on a multi-year basis. Congressmen Shuster even suggested that maybe Amtrak should consider suspending some of its profit-losing long-distance routes so that it can redirect money to fund NEC infrastructure work and make it easier for Shuster to sell the idea of multi-year funding for Amtrak to his fiscally-conservative Congressional friends.

But Mr. Boardman and the Subcommittee ranking member, Corrine Brown, oppose the idea because Amtrak is mandated by the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970 to provide a national rail network and over 4 million Americans would be without any transportation service if long-distance service was cut.

In an interview with LaborPress, Congresswoman Brown said while countries like England spend billions yearly to maintain and improve their passenger rail network and with China expected to spend $100 billion this year alone on railway investments, the U.S. hobbles along with yearly $1 billion appropriations for Amtrak.

“We used to be the leaders in rail, and now we are the caboose, and there aren’t cabooses anymore,” said Brown.

Congresswoman Brown asked Mr. Boardman for his recommendations as the committee works towards PRIIA reauthorization.

“We need funding to maintain our railroad, and we need it on a multi-year basis,” Boardman said.

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June 8, 2013

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