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Rail News: Amtrak

House T&I committee approves Amtrak funding legislation


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday approved the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA), which calls for $1.7 billion in Amtrak spending in each of the next four fiscal years.

The amount represents a slight increase over the current level of funding. The committee spent yesterday marking up the legislation, which was introduced by Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.).

"This is a good reform bill that firmly moves passenger rail towards greater transparency and accountability, and forces Amtrak to operate like a true business," Shuster said in a press release.

The bill garnered bipartisan support.

"In every region of the country, passenger rail investments boost local economies and create thousands of family-wage construction, engineering, and manufacturing jobs," said Ranking Committee Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). "This bill isn’t perfect — but it was a bipartisan effort that ultimately provides critical investments and system wide improvements to increase capacity and make our railways safer."

Passenger rail represents "one of the best alternatives" for relieving highway and airspace congestion, according to committee members. Still, Amtrak must be reformed, they said.

"Profits from Amtrak's most profitable route — the Northeast Corridor — currently are not invested back into the corridor. And although significant ridership increases are occurring on Amtrak's state-supported routes, its inconsistent financial structure and “black box” accounting system hamper states’ ability to help manage the routes and understand what exactly it is they’re paying Amtrak for," read a statement issued by the committee.

However, some Amtrak supporters suggested the bill did not provide enough support for the nation's intercity passenger-rail system.

"This bill would authorize Amtrak and other intercity passenger rail service for the next five years at a piddling $1.8 billion per year. That means another five years of declining service when the system should be rapidly expanding," said Richard Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, in a statement.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/13/2015