- Amtrak funding: "A tired reminder"
An "out of touch with the public" Bush Administration, in the words of
the National Association of Railroad Passengers, will propose zero
operating support for Amtrak for Fiscal Year 2006, and $360 million for
Northeast Corridor maintenance, according to reports published by several
news agencies. The reports are based on information leaked by
The zero-funding proposal is "a tired reminder of similar, failed efforts
by past Administrations, which proposed Amtrak zeroes for FY 1986 through
FY 1991," NARP said in a statement released late yesterday. NARP was
specifically referring to the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George
H. W. Bush.
Amtrak has wide support in Congress, which one rail industry observer
characterized as "voting its constituents, not its conscience." Several
lawmakers responded to the news reports by saying that it would be highly
unlikely that Congress would support the Administration's proposal. For
FY 2005, the Administration requested $900 million, an amount Amtrak
President and CEO David L. Gunn said would force the railroad to shut
down. Congress eventually approved $1.2 billion.
"President Bush is willing to spend billions to send a couple of people
to Mars, but not one dime for Amtrak's 25 million annual travelers who
want better rail service to destinations on this planet,'" Sen. Frank
Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was quoted as saying to the Associated Press.
"The Administration talks a lot about 'Amtrak reform,'" said NARP.
"However, Amtrak under President and CEO David L. Gunn has experienced
more reform in the past two-and-a-half years than probably in the
previous 30. Headcount has dropped by 3,900 (not counting the transfer of
Boston area commuter rail to another operator). Meanwhile, the number of
daily trains has risen from 265 in 2002 to 300 today. Amtrak has taken on
no new debt since June 2002, although costs of servicing previously
incurred debt continue to be significant."
NARP also cited Amtrak's 4.3% ridership growth in FY 2004, which
established a record of 25.1 million. The previous record was 24.0
million in FY 2003.
An Amtrak spokesman said the railroad will not comment until the
Administration's FY 2006 budget request has been officially released.