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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak seeks $1.8 billion in FY2017 budget request


Amtrak is requesting $1.8 billion for fiscal-year 2017, according to its legislative grant request.

Joseph Boardman

The national intercity passenger railroad's budget request includes $920 million for capital expenditures, $650 million for operating expenses, and $263.7 million in federal discretionary grant programs authorized under the new surface transportation bill known as the FAST Act, which Congress passed late last year.

The funding is part of Amtrak's five-year plan to improve the railroad, Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman said in letter submitted with the budget request to Vice President Joseph Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The budget includes expenditures related to continued efforts to improve service and safety; an investment in positive train control (PTC) implementation; expansion of WiFi service throughout Amtrak's network; and costs related to planning, environmental review and engineering work for a new Hudson River tunnel system.

Boardman, who will retire as Amtrak's chief later this year, also continued to make his case for investing in Amtrak's aging infrastructure.

"Amtrak's capital needs are pressing: outdated and inadequate infrastructure and equipment must be replaced to sustain and grow both the Amtrak system and the economy it supports," he wrote.

He also reviewed Amtrak's past year, in which ridership exceeded 30 million for the fifth consecutive year, with ridership records set on the Northeast Corridor and two other services. Ticket revenue came in at $2.185 billion, slightly less than the previous year, "but enough, when combined with our efforts to control costs, to sustain our financial performance," Boardman said.

Amtrak's cost recovery remained above 90 percent for the second year in a row, he said.

Boardman also took note of Amtrak's two significant derailments in 2015: the accident in Philadelphia in May that resulted in eight fatalities; and an incident involving the Vermonter near St. Albans, Vt., in October 2015. Both remain under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

"Amtrak is doing everything possible to assist those investigations, and is working closely with the NTSB and the Federal Railroad Administration to learn the possible causes of both accidents and implement any necessary corrective actions," he wrote.