U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta submitted to Congress Monday the Bush Administration's proposal for fundamental reform of Amtrak, which would ultimately give states the freedom to choose the train operations provider of their choice.
"Business as usual is a recipe for failure. Our proposed legislation would yield a more financially stable and effective network of intercity passenger rail," Mineta said.
The administration's proposal, the Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act of 2003, would create a system in which states and local communities, using capital investments supported by federal funds, operate rail service in their areas.
Funding for the president's proposal will be subject to the appropriation's process.
The proposal builds on proven models of success, such as the Cascades service between Portland, Ore., and Seattle, and other state-funded trains in California and Illinois.
The reform act replaces subsidy payments to the National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak) after a transition period, with direct federal matches for capital investment to be paid directly to the states.
States and multi-state compacts would submit proposals for passenger rail capital investment and train operations to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Ultimately, states would be free to choose the train operations provider of their choice --whether a private company or a public transit agency.
Under the Administration's plan, Amtrak would transition over time into three entities:
A private passenger rail company that would operate trains under contract to states and multi-state compacts -- just as the current Amtrak operates trains under contract to commuter rail agencies.
A private rail infrastructure company that would maintain and operate infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor Compact. Title to Amtrak's current tracks, stations and other infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor will be held by the federal government and leased to the Northeast Corridor Compact.
The National Passenger Rail Corp., which would continue as a government corporation that would retain Amtrak's current right to use the tracks of the freight railroads, and the Amtrak corporate name. Both the track-access rights and the Amtrak brand would be provided under contract to states and multi-state compacts for qualifying passenger rail service they sponsor.