Congress Comes Through for Rail.
Just when you’re ready to write Congress off as a dysfunctional, misguided, delusional bunch of clowns, they surprise you with the unexpected: something responsible, necessary and important.
The latest example of this phenomenon occurred earlier this week when the House passed a budget for the Fiscal Year 2018 … a budget that included a significant increase in funding for Amtrak. Specifically, it was $650 million for the Northeast Corridor and $1.3 billion for the National Network.
And that’s not all. There’s also $250 million to help pay for the implementation of the PTC system and $20 million for the Rail Restoration Program. (That’s money for restoring rail service between New Orleans and Orlando.) There’s more, too, and it’s all passenger rail related.
Jim Mathews, president of the Rail Passengers Association, praised Congress for showing leadership, and he’s right because they allocated almost two billion for Amtrak whereas in Trump’s budget, Amtrak got zero … zip … nada.
In a communication sent to the RPA membership, Mathews quite correctly noted that a large chunk of the credit for the increased Amtrak funding should go to those RPA members who contacted their representatives in Congress and urged support for Amtrak. Even more important, this year RPA organized a program in which the association’s members were asked to contact their local mayors, urging them to contact their state’s senators and representatives in Washington and ask their support for Amtrak. It worked, too, because the politicians in Washington know that each of those mayors has his or her own constituency … meaning votes.
At any rate, there is reason to feel encouraged. What remains is to see how Amtrak’s top management proposes to spend that money. Specifically, there’s supposed too be a plan for the acquisition of new rolling stock … what kind and how much and how it’s going to be paid for. The details will speak volumes about where Richard Anderson and his management team want to take Amtrak and how they plan to get there.