In its FY 2014 funding request to Congress, Amtrak is emphasizing the need for more federal capital investment to improve and expand intercity passenger rail while requesting significantly less in federal operating support.
“If we truly want to realize our vision of what rail can offer America, in terms of real mobility improvements and rational modal choices, policy decisions must be made and funding provided to match them. These are big decisions, and will require bold thinking, but they will deliver value for the money,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman.
Boardman explained Amtrak ridership, revenue, on-time performance and other leading indicators are at record levels or improving. Since 2010, for every dollar of federal investment, America’s Railroad® has placed nearly $3 back into the economy. These achievements, he said, provide “tangible evidence of the public benefit federal investment in Amtrak delivers to the taxpayer, the traveling public and the American economy.”
He stressed that since the federal government established Amtrak as the foundation of a national intercity passenger rail system, the modernizing and maintaining of that system is a significant federal responsibility, including the operation of long-distance routes.
For FY 2014, Amtrak is seeking $373 million in federal operating support or about 17 percent less than it requested in FY 2013. This is made possible by an improved financial position where last fiscal year Amtrak covered 88 percent of its operating costs with ticket sales and other non-federal revenue sources, up from 85 percent the prior year. In addition, if current service levels are maintained, Amtrak’s state revenues in FY 2014 should increase by approximately $85 million as Amtrak and the states implement a Congressional requirement on cost allocation for short-distance routes.
Also for FY 2014, Amtrak is requesting $2.065 billion in federal capital support to: maintain the Northeast Corridor and other Amtrak-owned or maintained infrastructure and equipment; advance the Gateway Program to expand track, tunnel and station capacity between Newark, N.J., and New York Penn Station; acquire new equipment; and improve accessibility for passengers with disabilities. Amtrak is also requesting $212 million for debt service.
Boardman noted that some of the growth experienced by Amtrak today is the result of federal capital investments made 15 to 20 years ago such as the Acela Express high-speed rail program and service quality and reliability improvements. He also said the federal funding provided over the past decade to improve the resilience of the Amtrak tunnels and other infrastructure in the New York area proved vital to reduce the recovery period and provide faster restoration of intercity and commuter rail service following Superstorm Sandy.
“In recognition that the Amtrak network is a national asset operated on behalf of the federal government, the highest imperative of passenger rail legislation should be to provide dedicated, multi-year operating and capital funding to support existing intercity passenger rail services and assets, and the development of new ones,” Boardman stated.
He further explained that if Congress acted to provide the needed capital funds it will greatly increase Amtrak’s ability to efficiently and effectively deliver the services it provides while helping to sustain the partnerships that can lead to the improvement and expansion of high-speed and intercity passenger rail service in key corridors across the United States.