Amtrak Reauthorization Bill Introduced in House
On Thursday, April 14, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AL), Ranking Member Jim Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the Railroad Sub-Committee Steve LaTourette (R-OH) and Ranking Member Corrine Brown (D-FL) jointly introduced the Amtrak Reauthorization Act of 2005 and the Rail Infrastructure Development and Expansion Act for the 21st Century (RIDE 21).
The Amtrak Reauthorization Act of 2005 would provide $2 billion for each of the next three fiscal years. RIDE 21 would provide $71 billion for new high-speed rail development for passenger and freight rail improvements.
In a strongly worded statement Rep. Oberstar introducing these Bills stated, “The Administration. . .said that Amtrak has not evolved with the rest of the transportation sector and that structural reform is needed to make Amtrak a viable transportation alternative. Well, to the extent there is any truth to allegations that Amtrak hasn’t evolved like the rest of the transportation sector, there is a good explanation. For too many years our Nation’s passenger railroad has been treated as an unwanted stepchild.”
He continued by saying, “Without Amtrak, millions of passengers – many of who cannot afford to buy a plane ticket or for whom driving is impracticable – would be stranded. . Amtrak’s 20,000 workers would be out on the streets looking for new jobs. . . .States already under tight budget constraints would be forced to figure out how to pay for new service.”
Rep. Oberstar also pointed out the problems that killing Amtrak would cause for the Railroad Retirement System and for the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Account. He stated the successes that Amtrak has had despite chronic underfunding, which include the increase in ridership and progress in rebuilding infrastructure and rolling stock. He concluded that, “Amtrak is making progress, even under a starvation budget. All of this progress would halt under the Administration’s radical so-called ‘reform’ schemes.”
The time has come for all TCU members to assist in the fight to save Amtrak. We are calling on you to contact your member of Congress and urge them to support the Amtrak Reauthorization Act of 2005 and RIDE 21 as introduced by the T&I Leadership.