Tags: amtrak | state | funding | routes

Amtrak Relying on States to Fund Local Routes

Image: Amtrak Relying on States to Fund Local Routes The Amtrak Vermonter heads south in Middlesex, Vt.

Friday, 03 May 2013 12:35 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Facing pressure to reduce its dependence on federal subsidies, Amtrak is trying to decide whether to close several short-haul routes or get 19 states in which passenger service rail lines are located to cover the costs.

Amtrak is looking at stopping service on 28 routes, although most of the 19 states have so far agreed to help cover the cost of continuing services on local routes less than 750 miles long, reports The New York Times.

If all 19 states end up helping to finance the continuation of Amtrak service, the public rail line estimates that it could bring in an extra $85 million a year, which would help reduce its longstanding deficit, according to the Times.

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Joseph Boardman, Amtrak’s president, told the newspaper that last year’s federal operating subsidy of $466 million was down from a high of $755 million in 2004, due to cost sharing with some states as well as a record number of passengers and revenues.

"It’s what Congress has been doing for years, that is to push costs down to the state and local level,” he said, adding, "It’s not going to be a windfall for Amtrak, but it will help reduce our costs."

Pennsylvania and Virginia are two states that have already agreed to foot the bill for local Amtrak service, citing the need to ease road congestion and spur economic development.

Transportation expert Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who co-authored its own Amtrak study, told the Times that he expects all of the states to eventually agree to the cost-sharing arrangement.

"The larger implication is that it will have a positive impact on Amtrak’s budget and improve passenger rail service," he said.



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