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Senate's verdict on Amtrak appropriation could come today

The Senate might vote as early as today on Amtrak's appropriation for fiscal year 2003.

Yesterday, Amtrak President David Gunn warned the Senate Appropriations Committee that "federal funding substantially less than $1.2 billion will take us right back to the near-shutdown we experienced last summer," according to a prepared statement.

Amtrak averted that shutdown and maintained operations by obtaining a $300 million package of loans and cash from the federal government.

Gunn kept the pressure on because the Senate is weighing a measure that would fund Amtrak at $762 million. The Republican-controlled Senate also has proposed a reduction in Amtrak funding to $826 million.

But Gunn was encouraged by a meeting yesterday with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who plans to present an amendment to the Senate bill that would restore funding to Amtrak's requested $1.2 billion.

"If this amendment is not approved by the Senate and the funding level stands as it is in the bill, Amtrak will have no choice but an orderly shutdown of all service this spring or sooner," said Gunn.

Amtrak has never made money in its 32-year history, is mired in debt, and doesn't generate enough revenue to support operations and pay for capital improvements.

Since taking over the national passenger railroad last spring, Gunn has eliminated unprofitable business ventures, reduced staff and tried to cut costs.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/17/2003