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Mineta continues to push Amtrak reform

During a nationwide tour, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta continues to promote the Bush Administration’s Amtrak reform proposal. Yesterday, he visited Boston, where he met with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and held a new conference to discuss the national passenger railroad’s future.

Under the administration’s proposal, the federal government would assume control of the Northeast Corridor, Mineta said in a prepared statement.

"Amtrak is dying, and if we continue down the current track, there is no hope of recovery," he said. "We have a different vision where the Northeast Corridor becomes a world-class example of modern passenger-rail travel."

The government would repair the tracks, tunnels and bridges along the corridor, and free Amtrak of the cost to maintain tracks and stations so the railroad could focus on operating trains, said Mineta. Meanwhile, states could choose Amtrak, private companies or public rail operators to run routes, and the government would establish a 50/50 match for state investments in passenger-rail infrastructure, according to the Administration’s Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act, which officials plans to reintroduce when Congress reconvenes in April.

However, Amtrak has its own long-range plans for the corridor. The railroad expects to spend almost $2.5 billion in federal grants during the next five years to upgrade track, bridges, tunnels, signals and facilities, including the Thames River Bridge, New Jersey interlockings and Hudson River tunnel.

"Currently, thousands of Amtrak engineering department employees in the Northeast Corridor supervise and perform this work while the corridor is used by multiple railroads, including Amtrak’s own high-speed operations," Amtrak officials said. "Plans to transfer this responsibility and the obligation to fund it will certainly be scrutinized by all passenger-rail policymakers and stakeholders in the months to come."

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More News from 3/24/2005