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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak's Coscia, SMART's Previsich ask Congress to boost passenger-rail investments


Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia on Wednesday called on Congress to provide long-term, dedicated capital investments to develop and implement passenger-rail service along rail corridors between major U.S. cities.

Testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, Coscia said such investments would "unlock intercity passenger rail’s potential" and, as a result, would stimulate the economy.

"Amtrak's growth over the past 10 years, especially on intercity corridors between 100 to 500 miles, hints at the tremendous opportunity of developing a robust, nationwide passenger-rail system focused on city pairs," Coscia said in a prepared statement. "In such corridors throughout the globe, high speed and higher-speed trains are not only an essential mode of transportation, but also a significant driver of local development and economic growth."

The United States should "fully embrace" investment in passenger rail to strengthen its economy and "improve the quality of our lives," he added.

When the new Congress convenes in January, it should consider approving the creation of a Transportation Trust Fund that recognizes the importance of intercity passenger rail, said Coscia.

A multiyear funding mechanism also would enable Amtrak to build major capital projects that would allow for faster and more reliable rail service between cities, he added.

John Previsich, president of the transportation division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), also called on the committee and Congress to pass long-term transportation funding that includes predictable, dedicated sources of funding during his testimony on Wednesday.

"Amtrak has set ridership records in 10 of the last 11 years, and polling that our union has commissioned throughout the country shows overwhelming support for more service and increased funding for Amtrak," said Previsich in a prepared statement.
Although Amtrak ridership has been growing, inadequate federal funding has caused the rail system to age and deteriorate. Meanwhile, other countries — most notably China — are investing heavily in modern passenger-rail systems, "leaving American competitiveness, and American workers, further and further behind," said Previsich.

“Passenger rail reauthorization is an opportunity to make needed investments in a critical segment of our transportation system," he said.