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Rail News: Passenger Rail

ARC plans hearing on separating Northeast Corridor from Amtrak's operations


Amtrak Reform Council (ARC) June 18 announced it will hold a hearing June 26 at Hilton Newark Gateway Hotel’s Grand Ballroom regarding ARC’s proposed "appropriate separation" of National Railroad Passenger Corp.’s infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) from Amtrak’s train operations.

ARC recommended the move in an April report. Prior reports from U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General and U.S. General Accounting Office have listed vast numbers of repairs and upgrades needed on the corridor for safe, efficient train use, but just maintaining NEC in a usable state costs Amtrak $600 million annually.

Rather than continuing to seek ways to maintain and upgrade NEC, Amtrak management needs to concentrate on its core business, says ARC Chairman Gil Carmichael.

"They’ve done a lousy job of raising enough money to maintain infrastructure and run trains," he says.

Carmichael and ARC members — although not all — believe states through which NEC cuts need a well-run toll road that would very likely be jointly funded from state and federal sources and set up like a transportation authority.

That authority easily could be Federal Railroad Administration — it already owns the corridor’s mortgage and paid for the catenary system north of New York.

"If nothing else happens, I’d like to see FRA take over NEC and issue tax-exempt bonds, [funds from which would be put toward the $20 billion in deferred repairs and maintenance on the corridor]," says Carmichael.

Amtrak, state departments of transportation, commuter agencies along NEC and freight railroads operating on NEC have been invited to appear at the 9:30 a.m.-to-5:30 p.m. hearing.

ARC plans to hold a business meeting prior to the hearing; both events are open to the public.

Kathi Kube