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Rail News: Amtrak

President's FY2006 transportation budget proposes more funds for public transit, none for Amtrak


Yesterday, the Bush Administration released its proposed fiscal-year 2006 budget, which would increase transit funding and eliminate Amtrak’s appropriation.

Transit funding would increase less than 2 percent to $7.78 billion — a "small step in the right direction," according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). However, the budget does not meet growing demand for public transportation, association officials believe. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent Conditions and Performance Report stated that $20.6 million needs to be invested in public transportation annually, APTA officials said in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration doesn’t plan to appropriate any funds for Amtrak in FY2006 unless the national passenger railroad completes significant reforms, such as transitioning into separate entities that would operate trains under contract to states, and maintain and operate the Northeast Corridor.

"After 34 years of Amtrak operating losses and $29 billion in taxpayer subsidies, it’s clear that the current model of passenger-rail service is flawed and unsustainable," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.

The budget does include $360 million to support existing commuter- and freight-rail service along the Northeast Corridor.

At least one passenger-rail industry veteran favors the administration’s proposal.

"Amtrak’s costs are enormously disproportionate to its meager traffic and the railroad refuses to implement true reforms," said former Amtrak employee Joseph Vranich, who has written several books about the railroad.

Amtrak’s long-distance trains can’t compete with air travel and the railroad is taking a hit because it’s preserving routes that are poorly patronized, said Vranich.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/8/2005