Senate Gives Amtrak Ticket to Survival

Carper Worked to Successfully Solidify Funding and Stave off Amtrak Shutdown -Conference Report Could Still Derail Progress-

Washington, DC- Senator Tom Carper helped Amtrak stave off another attempt to cut rail service nationwide and effectively shut down Amtrak, with the passage of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill today that includes $1.2 billion for Amtrak. This funding will go towards the operations, maintenance and rehabilitation of existing rail cars and will provide the minimal amount necessary for Amtrak to operate in 2003. Amtrak was facing bankruptcy this spring if this funding was not provided. “Amtrak will not survive unless we take responsibility for its survival — it is that simple. If we do not support Amtrak, we will seal Amtrak’s fate. Amtrak will go bankrupt and shut down this spring,” Senator Carper and several of his colleagues who support Amtrak wrote in a letter to other lawmakers before the Senate approved the restoration of funds from $826 million to $1.2 billion. “The Senate is finally on the right track and the majority of members are now on record in support of national passenger rail. This is a significant step forward to keeping Amtrak running in the short term,” said Carper, a former member of Amtrak’s national Board of Directors. “By helping keep cars off of our crowded highways, passenger rail service reduces the emissions our cars, trucks and vans put into the air, reduces our trade deficit and lessens our dependence on foreign oil. This funding not only keeps Amtrak running, it helps achieve each of those goals as well.” Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General assessed Amtrak’s infrastructure needs at $1 billion to $1.5 billion annually over the next 20 years. The $1.2 billion included in the FY 2003 Senate budget provides $679 million more than the Administration included in their budget proposal. The question of Amtrak funding will now be determined by the House-Senate conference on the larger spending legislation. While the Senate has approved $1.2 billion, the House version of the bill calls for only $762 million.