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Senate adopts Amtrak reform bill


Yesterday, the Senate adopted the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2005, an Amtrak reform bill introduced in July by Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

Approved by a 93-6 vote, the bill was adopted as an amendment to the budget reconciliation bill.

"I know it is highly unusual to add an authorization bill to reconciliation, but time is running out," said Lott in a prepared statement. "Despite the Commerce Committee’s having reported out this bill in July, we have been unable to schedule it for the full Senate. Because the administration has indicated it will not support any funding for Amtrak this fiscal year unless Congress enacts Amtrak reforms, it is imperative for the Congress to make its voice heard on Amtrak."

The six-year reauthorization bill would provide $11.4 billion for Amtrak through fiscal-year 2011 to maintain current operations, upgrade equipment and return the Northeast Corridor (NEC) to a state of good repair. It also includes funds to create a new grant program for states that want to add or improve intercity passenger-rail service.

The bill would provide $3.3 billion for Amtrak operating costs, $4.9 billion in capital grants, $1.4 billion for state grants and $1.7 billion to eliminate debt. During the six-year period, Congress would reduce Amtrak’s operating subsidy 40 percent through cost-cutting, restructuring and reform measures, and increase capital funding.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/4/2005