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Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Bill Flynn is urging Congress to support five legislative priorities that would help the national intercity passenger railroad recover from the pandemic's economic fallout and expand service.
In a Jan. 22 letter, Flynn is asking Congress to consider:• additional COVID-19 relief funding for Amtrak to sustain and restore operations and recall employees through the remainder of fiscal-year 2021 and beyond. Amtrak is requesting $1.54 billion in FY2021 and will outline its FY2022 needs in its annual legislative and grant request.• an Intercity Passenger Rail Trust Fund. Amtrak and intercity passenger rail are the only mode of surface transportation without a federal trust fund to provide reliable, multiyear program funding. "Reliance solely on the annual appropriations projects for funding inhibits our ability to pursue large, multiyear capital projects or procurements and service expansion across the nation," the letter states.• access to railroads for new service and additional trains. Most rail routes that Amtrak trains use are owned and controlled by freight railroads. "Amtrak always attempts to work cooperatively with our host railroads to add new routes, modify existing routes and add additional trains," Flynn writes. "More often than not, these efforts fail to provide reasonable access for Amtrak trains, leaving your constituents without the services they deserve."• preference enforcement. "Our host railroads are required by law to provide Amtrak trains dispatching preference over their own freight trains," writes Flynn. "Unfortunately, this requirement is not consistently honored and 'freight train interference' is the largest source of delay to Amtrak trains on host railroads."• new routes. Corridor routes, typically less than 500 miles, represent the fastest growing segment of Amtrak service. "We ask Congress to authorize and fund Amtrak's expansion in such corridors by allowing us to cover most of the initial capital and operating costs of new or expanded routes prior to requiring state partner cost-sharing under Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act," the letter states.
Flynn's entire letter can be read via this link.