In its FY 2015 budget request to Congress, Amtrak is seeking a change in federal passenger rail investment and warns that continuation of current funding levels leave the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) infrastructure vulnerable to a bigger, costlier and far more damaging failure than anything yet seen.
“Infrastructure deterioration and changes in business patterns have reached a point where something has to change,” said President/CEO Joe Boardman. “If America wants a modern intercity passenger rail system, the problems of policy and funding must be addressed.
“The nation cannot afford to let a railroad that carries half of Amtrak’s trains and 80% of the nation’s rail commuters fall apart,” Boardman stressed, noting the NEC is vital to the mobility, connectivity and economy of the entire Northeast region.
Boardman explained a new federal policy and funding arrangement should create a significant and reliable multi-year capital investment program to reverse the decay of NEC infrastructure and support other intercity passenger rail projects.
A strong federal commitment will allow Amtrak to plan and implement major multi-year projects, such as replacing century-old NEC bridges and tunnels, and make critical capacity improvements such as the Gateway Program between New Jersey and New York.
Boardman said that NEC revenues exceed operating costs by more than $300 million a year and are today used to cover some costs of state-supported and long-distance trains. To provide additional funding for NEC improvements, Congress should fully fund the operating and capital needs of the long-distance routes so the NEC revenues can be reinvested in the NEC, Boardman explained.
By dedicating NEC revenue to meet NEC needs, it could be leveraged to pay for debt service on loans to address the most urgent NEC infrastructure issues. It also could be used to finance other funding solutions such as public-private partnerships, grants of assistance, and state and commuter rail agreements.
For FY 2015, Amtrak is requesting $1.62 billion in federal capital and operating support, an increase of approximately 16% from FY 2014 federal appropriations.
To view an NEC Infrastructure Advisory Commission report, click here.
To view a copy of Amtrak’s budget request, click here.