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Rail News: Amtrak

Moorman makes Amtrak's case to Congress

In testifying before a Senate subcommittee this week, Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman called for greater investment in Amtrak's aging assets.
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Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Wick Moorman suggested to a Senate subcommittee on transportation that it's time for a "new era of investment" in Amtrak's aging infrastructure, fleet and stations.

“More than ever, our nation and the traveling public rely on Amtrak for mobility, but the future of Amtrak depends on whether we can renew the cars, locomotives, bridges, tunnels, stations and other infrastructure that allows us to meet these growing demands," Moorman testified this week during a hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

In fiscal-year 2016, Amtrak logged a record ridership of more than 31 million passengers and ticket revenue of $2.2 billion, Moorman told the senators.

"I'm certain that we can get even better by relentlessly improving our safety culture, modernizing and upgrading our products and strengthening our operational efficiency and project delivery," he added.

Amtrak needs additional support from Congress and President Donald Trump's administration, Moorman said. After 45 years of service, many of the national intercity passenger railroad's assets are at the end of their useful life. For example, Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, where it owns 363 miles of infrastructure, is the nation's busiest railroad with 2,200 daily high-speed, commuter and freight trains. But, it was built more than 100 years ago.

Moorman outlined projects that warrant significant investment, including:
• construction of the Portal North Bridge and new Hudson Tunnels, both parts of the larger Gateway Program that will ensure that 450 daily Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains can continue to serve New York City from the south;
• construction of the new Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel and Susquehanna Bridge in Maryland to expand service and improve trip time;
• expansion and improvement of Union Stations in Chicago and Washington, D.C., to improve accessibility, expand capacity, spur local development and enhance safety;
• construction of fleet of new or rebuilt diesel locomotives to support Amtrak's national network; and
• construction of track, signaling, and other improvements to remove chokepoints on host railroads or restore service in key underserved markets, such as along the Gulf Coast.

Moreover, Moorman emphasized the importance of Amtrak's partnerships with 21 states and various commuter agencies to provide service on corridors across the country and on the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak is looking for ways to work even more collaboratively with those states and agencies on rolling stock, infrastructure and funding needs, he said.

Moorman urged Congress and the administration to consider advancing intercity passenger-rail service through direct investment, public-private partnerships, innovative financing, streamlining environmental review process and the removal of red tape.