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Rail News: Amtrak

Supreme Court rules Amtrak is a government entity, but doesn't resolve case


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled unanimously that Amtrak is a government entity — not a private entity as a lower court had ruled.

The case, Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads (AAR), involved a measure contained in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 that said Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration should work together to create a system of "metrics and standards" for Amtrak performance. The standards allowed Amtrak trains to take priority over freight trains on freight track.

The AAR sued, challenging whether Amtrak has such authority over other railroads. An Appeals Court decision determined that Amtrak was a private entity, and as such could not regulate other railroads' actions.

However, the Supreme Court reversed that Appeals Court ruling, saying that Amtrak is like a government entity. But the court also determined that additional litigation would have to determine whether there are constitutional problems with Amtrak's regulatory authority in creating standards for an industry in which it participates.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/10/2015