Amtrak needs government funding
Published 7:00 am Saturday, April 5, 2014
Representatives with Amtrak stopped into Picayune Thursday afternoon to request local assistance to convince state and federal legislators to help fund operation and maintenance of the national railroad transportation system.
Since 1971, the federal government mandated that Amtrak is responsible for providing public transit on the nation’s railway system, said Joe Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak.
Currently, the northeast corridor is the most profitable for the company, but also at risk of failure due to neglected maintenance. Boardman said the system currently relies on infrastructure that was constructed during the Great Depression.
A couple of tunnels under the Hudson River are in dire need of repairs, but to conduct the maintenance means paying workers time and half because the system can only close on the weekends. Boardman said a train passes through those tunnels once every 90 seconds during workdays.
Amtrak has 15 trains that provide long-distance travel, three of which pass through Picayune.
Continued maintenance of the system is necessary, especially considering 40 percent of the rural population in the United States is served by rail travel, Boardman said. Train travel is especially essential to people who cannot drive.
“If you don’t have this kind of service in this nation you don’t have mobility,” Boardman said.
Amtrak’s profits are reported to be at about $300 million in the northeast corridor, according to a release from the company. But Boardman said the company is forced to use some of those profits to maintain nationwide railways, which prevents the company from performing maintenance where it is needed most. In response, Boardman says the company needs help from the state and federal levels.
In addition, new federal guidelines state the company is about to have to find a way to accommodate pets on trains.
“There’s always another bill in Congress for something for us to have to do,” Boardman said.
According to a press release from Amtrak the company is requesting $1.62 billion in federal funds.