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Senate signs off on long-term Amtrak funding bill


Yesterday, the Senate passed the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007 (S. 294) by a 70-22 vote. The bill would authorize billions of dollars for Amtrak operating and capital costs during the next six years, including grants to states.

The legislation would mandate operating grants totaling $580 million in fiscal-year 2007, $590 million in FY2008, $600 million in FY2009, $575 million in FY2010, $535 million in FY2011 and $455 million in FY2012. Capital grants would total $813 million in FY2007, $910 million in FY2008, $1 billion in FY2009 and FY2010, and $1.2 billion in FY2011 and FY2012.

S. 294 also would provide funds for Amtrak to repay long-term debt, monies to help cover the portion of Amtrak's Railroad Retirement Tier II Tax that exceeds the Tier II annuities paid to Amtrak retirees, and grants to Amtrak and states participating in the Next Generation Corridor Train Equipment Pool Committee.

However, the bill would mandate a few Amtrak reforms, as well. S. 294 would require Amtrak's board to implement a modern financial accounting and reporting system, develop a five-year financial plan, and develop and implement procedures for allocating train route operating and capital costs among states and the railroad.

Amtrak also would have to evaluate the financial and operating performance of long-distance routes and develop a performance improvement plan; establish a state-of-good repair plan for the Northeast Corridor; develop a plan to improve on-board service; and create a Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee to design, develop specifications for and procure standardized next-generation corridor equipment.

The House is expected to develop a companion bill in the coming months.

"We trust that the leadership in the House of Representatives will hear the message that this strong, pro-Amtrak vote sends and draft companion legislation for passage as soon as possible," National Association of Railroad Passengers officials said in a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/31/2007