Senate Commerce Committee Approves Amtrak Reauthorization

Senate Commerce Committee Approves Amtrak Reauthorization

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation approved S. 1516, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2005. This bill centers around three themes: reform and accountability, adequate funding for Amtrak and passenger rail service improvement.

This is a six year reauthorization bill covering fiscal year 2006 through 2011. It provides for Amtrak’s capital and operating needs to maintain current operations, upgrade equipment, and return the Northeast Corridor to a state of good repair. Over the life of the bill, Amtrak’s operation subsidy would be reduced by 40 percent through cost cutting, restructuring and reform while capital funding would be increased.

Some of the major provisions of this bill include;

  • require a financial accounting system for Amtrak operations and a five year plan;
  • require the FRA and Amtrak, in consultation with the STB and the freight railroads to develop standards for measuring the performance and service quality of intercity train operations;
  • require Amtrak to develop a capital spending plan to return the Northeast Corridor to a state of good repair by 2011;
  • require Amtrak to develop, after consulting the States and the FRA, a way to assign costs and determine compensation for State supported services;
  • establish a competitive bid program allowing freight railroads to bid to operate select long distance and state supported routes.

This bill now moves to the full Senate for consideration. While TCU is cautiously optimistic about this bill, we must carefully watch it as some of the so-called reforms could have an adverse impact on our members working for Amtrak. Our legislative department is working closely on this bill.

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